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The Towns of Palestine 

under Muslim Rule 

AD 600-1600 

Andrew Petersen 

BAR International Series 1381 



List of Figures 

List of Plales vi 


List Tables vii 

Preface viii 

Part One 

1. Urban Theory 1 

2. Methodology 1 1 

Part Two 

; Byzantine Palestine 19 

[Marly Islamic Period 25 

5. Crusader Period 35 

6. Ayyubid and M.-imluk Period 37 

7. Ottoman Period 41 

Part Three 

8. Negev Towns 51 

(Beersheba. Rehovot, Isbaita. Elusa. 'Abda, Kurnub. "Auja Haffir, "Ayla/"Aqaba.) 

9. Towns in Eastern Galilee 65 

(Baysan. Tiberias. Sepphoris, Sal'ed, Nazareth.) 

ffOjCoastal Towns 79 

(Caesarea, Tanlura. Arsuf Apollonia, Jaffa, Isdud, Minat al-Qal'a, Ascalon. Majdal. Yibna. Minat Rubin. Qaqun) 

II.Ramla 95 

Part Four 

12. Conclusion 103 

Appendix 1 - Excavation Summaries (Beersheba. Baysan. Tiberias & Ramla) 1 15 

Appendix 2 - Statistics from the Ottoman Period 125 

^Bibliography 137 

figures 157-215 

Plates 216-238 


Pages 157-215 

1. The stereotypical Muslim city of North Africa, based on work by W. Marcais (1928), G. Marcais (1945). R. 
LeTourncau 1957) and J. Berque (1958) (after Alsayyad 1991, 16, Fig 2.1). 

2. The stereotypical Muslim city of the Middle East, based on Sauvaget's text (1934-41) (after Alsayyad 1991, 19, Fig 

3. Idealised Central Place System after Christallcr. 

4. Rainfall map of Palestine (after MacDonald 2001,596). 

5. Palestine during the By/.antine period, administrative divisions (after Watson 2001, 464). 

6. Palestine: towns in the By/antine period after A.M. Jones. 

7. Early Muslim conquests after Nicolle and McBride (1993a, 4). 

8. Muslim territories and principal cities c. AD 800 after Nicolle and McBride (1993a. 35). 

9. Palestine: towns in the early Islamic period. 

10. Palestine: towns in the early Islamic period according to Central Place theory. * 

1 1. Palestine during the tenth century, administrative divisions (after Walmsley 2001, 517). 

12. Palestine in the tenth and eleventh centuries; major routes (after Walmsley 2001, 518). 

13. Jerusalem in the Early Islamic period. 

14. Khirbat al-Mafjar near Jericho. Site plan after recent excavations. From Palestine Antiquities Department. 

15. "Anjar after Creswell. 

16. Plan of Kula in the Umayyad period with tribal divisions (after Djait 1986, 302). 

17. Mamluk territory after Nicolle and McBride (1993b. 4). 

18. Palestine: towns in the Mamluk period. 

20. Palestine: towns in the Mamluk period according to Central place theory. 

21. Plan of Jerusalem in the medieval period. 

22. Plan of Nablus in the Mamluk period. 

23. Plan of Gaza in the Mamluk period. 

24. Cities of Merv from the third to fifteenth century AD. 

25. Palestine: administrative districts (/wo.v) in the sixteenth century (after Hutteroth and Abdulfattah). 

26. Palestine: cities according to Ottoman lax records. 

27. Palestine: major population centres in the sixteenth century. 

28. Palestine: limits of permanent settlement in the sixteenth century. 

29. Negev in the early Islamic period with different types of settlement. 

30. Negev with towns inhabited in By/.antine and early Islamic period with rainfall indicated in isothetes. 

3 1 . "Aqaba map of archaeological sites. 

32. Islamic "Aqaba after Whitcomb. 

33. Beersheba excavated archaeological sites, with Islamic remains marked in red. 

34. Beersheba excavated archaeological sites, with cemeteries and graves marked in red. 

35. Plan of Isbaita with churches marked red and mosque green (after Brimer 1981, 228). 

36. Capitals of Galilee from the first to the fourteenth century AD. 

37. Urban centres in Galilee during the early Islamic period. 

38. Urban centres in Galilee during the Crusader period. 

39. Urban centres in Galilee during the Mamluk period. 

40. Urban centres in Galilee during the Ottoman period. 

41. Baysan in the early Islamic period. 

42. Baysan. Reconstruction of Umayyad market entrance with glass mosaic inscriptions (after Khamis 1997,49). 

43. Tiberias in the early Islamic period. 

44. Sated: historic buildings and quarters. 

45. Coast of Palestine in the tenth century with ribatat after Muqaddasi. 

46. Coastal towns of Palestine under the Crusaders. 

47. Coast of Palestine under the Mamluks. 

48. Ascalon in the early Islamic period. 

49. Majdal,; historic buildings and quarters. 

50. Plan of Minat lsdud/ Minat al-Qal'a. 

51. Arsuf. 

52. Cacsarea in the early Islamic period. 1. Eighth century. 

53. Caesarea in the early Islamic period. 2. Eleventh century. 

54. Ramla archaeological excavations (1), sites with pre-l2 ,h century pottery. 

55. Ramla archaeological excavations (2), sites with tombstones. 

56. Ramla archaeological excavations (3), sites with vats and red pigment. 

57. Ramla archaeological excavations (4), sites with pre-!2 ,h century high status buildings. 


58. Ramla archaeological excavations (5), sites with stone lined circular cisterns. 

59. Ramla archaeological excavations (6), sites with evidence of pottery production. 

60. Ramla archaeological excavations (7), sites with post 1 l ,h century pottery. 

61. Two reconstructions of Ramla in the Early Islamic period. 

62. Ramla in the Mamluk period. 

63. The White Mosque Ramla. Archaeological phase plan based on Kaplan (1959), Ben Dov 1984, Burgoyne 
(unpublished) and personal observation. 


Pages 216-238 

*c< v 

1 . Kufa; Dar al-imara with Great Mosque behind. 

2. 'Anjar. View of eity from Norih-West with cardo running diagonally across foreground. 

3. Khirbat al-Mafjar near Jericho. View of palace with bathhouse in background. 

4. Khirbat al-Mafjar near Jericho. Mosque, 


Pages 216-238 

1 . Kufa; Dar al-imara with Greal Mosque behind. 

2. 'Anjar. View of city from North-West with earclo running diagonally aeross foreground. 

3. Khirbat al-Mafjar near Jericho. View of palace with bathhouse in background. 

4. Khirbat al-Mafjar near Jericho. Mosque. 

5. Jisr Jindas between Ramla and Lydda. One of a number of bridges built by Bayars to revive the Via Minis. 

6. Jisr Jindas between Ramla and Lydda. Detail of lions framing inscription. 

7. Merv: Aerial view of the early city, Gyaur Kala, and its citadel Kik Kala (e.50G BC to 1 100 AD). In the background 
the southern part of the medieval city of Sultan Kala with mausoleum of Sultan Sanjar in to right corner. 

8. Merv: mausoleum of Sultan Sanjar in the centre of Sultan Kala. 

9. Nessana: acropolis with twentieth century Turkish hospital visible on summit. 

10. Nessana: view of early remains from acropolis. 

1 1. Isbaita/ Shivta: view of town from north with fortified wall of North church in foreground. 

1 2. Isbaita / Shivta: interior of North Church. 

13. Isbaita / Shivta: mosque adjacent to South Church. 

14. Isbaita / Shivta: One of two large reservoirs at centre of town. 

15. Kh.Futais/ Photis. One of the 25 cisterns. 

16. Baysan: Jami' al-'Arabain. Note larger masonry at base of wall and shape of minaret (No. 16 on Fig 40). 

17. Baysan: Crusader citadel with earlier remains in foreground. (D. Pringle 206/27) 

18. Baysan: Khan al-Ahmar to the west of the medieval town. 

19. Saffuriyya: Crusader tower (re-modelled in eighteenth nineteenth and twentieth centuries) in the centre of the ruins. 
Note re-use sarcophagai. 

20. Jaffa. Re-used Corinthian capital in courtyard of Great Mosque (Jami' al-Kebir). 

21. Jaffa, Sea Mosque. Note cylindrical late Ottoman minaret stands on an earlier, medieval(?), base. 

22. Majdal; Jami' al- Kebir from west with modern market place in foreground (before 1948 market place was to east of 

23. Majdal: Jami' al- Kebir from east with site of pre-1948 market place in foreground. 

24. Majdal: Jami' al- Kebir entrance to courtyard with re-used columns and capitals. 

25. Majdal: Jami' al- Kebir inscription above entrance commemorating construction by Sayf al-Din Salar in AD 1300. 

26. Minat al-Qala: Umayyad fortress from south-east (Structure A on Fig. 49). 

27. Minat al-Qala: remains of bathhouse dome (Structure B on Fig. 49). Note scalloped squinches and oculus visible to 

28. Arsuf: west side of town with harbour in foreground and citadel on top of the cliff. 

29. Arsuf: southern part of Umayyad city wall . 

30. Arsuf: Haram Sidna 'Ali. Shrine of Mamluk origin located to the south of the Crusader and early Islamic city. 

31. Caesarea: Bosnian mosque (nineteenth century). 

32. Yibna/ Yavne. Medieval bridge attributed to Mamluk Sultan Baybars circa AD 1270. 

33. Yibna/ Yavne. Maqam (shrine) Abu Hureira built in 1274 under the orders of the Mamluk Sultan Baybars. 

34. Ramla: view of city from East. 

35. Ramla: White Mosque from North-West with square structure in foreground and main prayer hall behind (Creswell 
Archive Ashmolean Museum. Oxford. Neg. No. 5229). 

}6 Ramla: While Mosque with main prayer hall from minaret. Note straight joint separating I s ' bay from 2" d bay to left 
and right of mihrab bay (Creswell Archive Ashmolean Museum, Oxford. Neg. No. C5226). 

37. Ramla: White Mosque from East with minaret to left and graveyard in foreground (Creswell Archive Ashmolean 
Museum. Oxford. Neg. No. 5230). 

38. Ramla: White Mosque. Detail of dome above mihrab. Note gap between back wall containing mihrab and arch 
above with muqarnas pendentive to support drum for dome (Creswell Archive, Ashmolean Museum, Oxford. Neg. 
No. 5232). 

39. Ramla: al-'Anaziyya cisterns from above (Creswell Archive Ashmolean Museum, Oxford. Neg. No. C5221). 

40. Ramla: al-'Ana/.iyya cisterns during clearance (Creswell Archive, Ashmolean Museum, Oxford. Neg. No. 5288). 

41. Ramla: al-'Ana/.iyya cisterns. Inscription dated Dhu'l-Hijja 172 (May 789). 

42. Ramla: excavations to south-west of White Mosque during development work (No. 13 on Figs. 53-59). 

43. Ramla: detail of excavations to south-west of White Mosque showing tessellated pavement. 

44. Ramla. Mosaic with animals including lions, birds, and donkey. Currently in Ramla Municipal Library. Originally 
from Glick's excavations in 'Little Holland' (No. 18 Figs. 53-9). 




1. List of Urban sites from Byzantine to early Ottoman times i: 

2. Main towns in Mamluk Period 

3. Main towns in early Ottoman Period 

4. Summary of Negev Towns 

5. 'Aqaba/Ayla Summary 

6. Oboda/Avdat Summary 

7. Beersheba Summary 

8. Elusa/Khalasa Summary 

9. Mampsis/Kurnub Summary 

10. Nessana/Auja Haffir Summary 

11. Rehovot/Kh. Ruheiba Summary 

12. Isbait/Shivta Summary * 

13. Kh. Futais/Fuleis Summary 

14. Table 15 Galilee Rural Settlements 

15. Baysan/Scythoplis Summary 

16. Nazareth Summary 

17. Salad Summary 

18. Sepphoris/Safuriyya Summary 

19. Tiberias/Tabariyya Summary 

20. Arsuf/Appolonia Summary 

21. Ascalon Summary 

21 Ashdod/Isdud Summary 

23. Caesarea Summary 

24. Jaffa Summary 

25. Majdal Summary 

26. Minat al-Qal'a Summary 

27. Minat Rubin Summary 

28. Qac)un Summary 

29. Yibna/Yavne Summary 

30. Si/e and Populations estimates of towns from By/.antine to early Ottoman times 

VI 1 


The origin of this book was an invesligation of the 
archaeology and history of Ramla from its origins in the 
early eighth century to the end of the sixteenth century 
(1). However during research on this topic it became 
clear that little was known of the long-term development 
of the other cities of Palestine. Whilst a considerable 
amount of attention has focussed on the transition of 
cities from the Classical/Byzantine period to the early 
Islamic period very little attention has been paid to the 
transition from the early Islamic to the medieval period. 
Therefore it was decided that it might be better to look at 
Ramla within the context of long-term changes in other 
Palestinian cities. There are two main questions which are 
of interest over this long time span which are; 1 ) Did the 
towns of Palestine decline in their quality, size or number 
during Muslim rule? and 2) To what extent did the towns 
of Palestine during the Muslim period differ from towns 
of the Crusader and Byzantine periods? 

The first question arises out of a comparison between 
A.H.M. Jones* (1971) list of more than forty cities in 
Palestine before the Muslim conquest and the sixteenth 
century Ottoman tax registers which record only six cities 
(see Table 1) (2). The second question is concerned with 
what constitutes a Muslim city and obviously has wider 
implications beyond Palestine. 

In order to answer these questions I have divided this 
thesis into four parts. In Part One (Chapters 1-2) I will 
examine various urban concepts and how they can be 
studied archaeologically. In the Part Two (Chapters 3-7) I 
will look at the cities from a chronological perspective 
within the wider context of Bilad al-Sham. Part Three 
will adopt a regional approach looking at case studies of 
twenty-six town in Palestine. 

Part Two is divided into five chapters; the first (Chapter 
3) includes the By/antine era up to the Muslim conquest; 
the second (Chapter 4), defined as the early Islamic- 
period lasts until the Crusader conquest of 1099 and 
includes the Umayyad, Abbasid and Fatimid periods; the 
third (Chapter 5) lasts from the Crusader conquest of 
1099 until the final expulsion of the Franks from Acre in 
1291; the fourth (Chapter 6), deals with the rule of the 
Ayyubids and Mamluks from the battle of Hattin in 1 187 
until the Ottoman conquest of 1516; the final section 
(Chapter 7) discusses the first century of Ottoman rule. 

Part Three is an investigation of twenty-six urban sites in 
Palestine (3). The discussion of the towns is divided into 
four chapters (Chapters 8-11) each of which highlights 
different aspects of the changes which took place 
between the Byzantine and early Ottoman periods. The 
first chapter (Chapter 8) comprises the towns of the 
Negev which apparently nourished during the Byzantine 
period yet seem to have ceased to exist shortly after the 
advent of Islam. The second chapter (Chapter 9) 
comprises the towns of the former Byzantine province of 
Palaestina II which lie to the west of the Jordan. The third 
chapter (Chapter 10) comprises the coastal towns of 
Palestina I and the fourth discusses Ramla. Most of the 
information is derived from published sources 
(supplemented by information from the archives of the 
Palestine Antiquities Authority) although 1 have visited 
all the sites in the catalogue. 

vi n 

Table 1. List of urban sites from Byzantine to early Ottoman times. 

Numbers 1-54 are derived from A.H.M. Jones Cities of the Eastern Empire Oxford 1971. 

Numbers 55-62 are urban sites which are known from the medieval and Ottoman periods. 

Numbers 63-66 are By/antine sites which are known from archaeology but which do not appear as towns in Jon 

Cities of the Eastern Empire. 


1 • 












Palaestlna 1 


1 ilislin 

I own 




Palaestina 1 







Antipatris [Ras 



Palacstina 1 





Diospolis [Lod/ 

Palaestina 1 







Palaestina 1 








Palaestina 1 





Azotus Hippinus 
[Ashdod/ Isdud] 

Palaestina 1 





Azotus Paialus 

|A-,h(l.i(l Yam] 

Palaestina 1 





[Bayt Jibrin/Beth 

Palaestina 1 







Aelia (Jerusalem) 

Palaestina 1 









Palaestina 1 











Palacstina 1 


1 ilistin 





Anthedon [near 

Palaestina 1 





[near Gaza] 

Palaestina 1 





Sanphea [same 
as above?] 

Palacstina 1 





Maiuma of 
[near/same as 

Palaestina 1 


I ilistin 



[south of Gaza] 

Palaestina 1 





Ono [between 
Jaffa and Lydda] 

Palacstina 1 







Palestine 1 







loppa | laffa] 

Palaestina 1 








Palaestina 1 








Maiuma of Gaza 

Palaestina 1 





Raphia [South of 

Palaestina 1 






Palaestina 1 






BittyMus [north 
of Gaza] 

Palaestina 1 





Amathus [Jordan 
Valley south of 
Pella, east of 

Palaestina 1 






Palacstina 1 










Palaestina 1 





Gerara [1" 
capital of Saltus 
E state)] 

Palaestina 1 


r ilistin 



Orda [2" d capital 
of Saltus 

Palaestina 1 





Constantinius [?] 

Palaestina 1 





Menois [south of 

Palaestina 1 





Tricomia [east of 
Bavt Jibrin] 

Palaestina 1 
Palaestina 1 



1 ihstin 


t. — 



Palaestina 1 














I own 















[west of Baysan] 
























Nais [north of 






Exalo [south of 






^^ — —j 








1 lusa 












Aela [Aqaba] 




















Saltus Hieraticus 

























Palestina 1 1 
Palestina 1 












Darum / Dayr al- 

Palestina 1 
Palestine! Ill 









Palestina III 




Rehovot in the 

Palestina III 


66 ' 


Palestina III 


* indicates the town is included in the detailed discussions in Chapters 8-11. 

(1) The end of the sixteenth century was taken as a convenient finishing point because at this dale we have the 
quantifiable population dala. 

(2) cf. Gil 1992, 275 who states 'We know that of 93 towns in the Sharon of which a geographical survey prov 
evidence during (he Roman Byzantine period, only 52 remained at the end of the Crusader period'. Here it shoulc 
pointed out that Gil employs the term town in a very loose sense and his statement makes more sense if we substi 
the word settlement which is the word used in Guy's original survey. In any case the point is that there had be. 
drastic reduction in the number of sealed sites. » 

(3) With the exception of "Aqaba all of the towns selected arc within the internationally recognized borders of mo< 
Israel as the data for this area is more plentiful than for either the West Bank or Gaza where there has been I 
archaeological activity during ihe last fifty years. 



Historical Urban Traditions 

Any consideration of urbanism in the medieval Islamic 
world must be set in a broad historical context. Three 
different historic urban traditions are of particular 
relevance to the Islamic world. The first is that of the 
ancient Near East which besides occupying much of the 
same landscape as the Islamic world, also has the oldest 
urban traditions. The second is that of the Classical world 
Which is fundamental to an understanding of both Islamic 
and Western civilization. The third is that of Medieval 
and Early Modern Europe which, as a culture 
contemporary with medieval Islam, has much 
comparative material and has generally received more 
scholarly attention (in particular archaeological 
documentation see chapter 2). 

Before looking at these traditions it is worth making 
some general observations. Urbanism is a complex 
phenomenon which is experienced in various forms in 
different parts of the world. Attempts to provide rigid 
definitions which fit all situations are now generally 
treated with caution (sec for example Carter 1981, 17-18 
and Taole 2-1); however, the influence of such 
prescriptive ideas is still found in the literature. The most 
famous and influential example is the work of the famous 
German historical sociologist Max Weber (1864-1920). 
He listed five conditions essential to the existence of a 
1) a fortification 2) a market, 3) a court of its own 
and at least partially autonomous law; 4) a related form of 
association; and 5) at least partial autonomy and 
autocephaly." (Weber 1966, 80-1) . 

The conditions are obviously only applicable to a few 
m Western Europe and arc useless when one is 
considering urbanism in a non-European context. 
Weber's most controversial condition was that cities must 
be partially autonomous which is a condition which 
d exclude most Islamic settlements (sec discussion 
J section on Islamic urbanism). Other conditions such as 
ke possession of fortifications are also questionable as a 
town wall does not guarantee urban status. Problems such 
as these have meant that recent writers have been less 
enthusiastic about Weber's pre-conditions and have 
instead focussed on more inclusive definitions. For 
example Carter (1981, 37) defines a town as a place that 
fulfils the following three functions: 

1) Central place functions, or general services, which arc 
carried out for a more or less extensive but contiguous 

I) Transport functions, which arc carried out at break of 
bulk points along the major lines of communications; 

3) Special functions, which are carried out for non-local, 
non-contiguous areas. 

Whilst this definition is of some use in defining the role 

of a town it gives no idea of the physical and social 
characteristics expected and the functions listed could for 
example describe a railway station and goods yard. The 
physical and social characteristics would involve some 
idea of size and population. However these arc both 
notoriously hard to define in distinction from other forms 
of settlement as they will vary through time and in 
different locations. 

Early Cities 

One of the most obvious ways to approach a definition of 
the concept of a town is to look at the work of pre- 
historians concerned with the rise of urbanism. This is 
particularly appropriate in a consideration of Islamic 
urbanism as many of the early urban centres were located 
in an area which was later central to the Islamic world 
(Iraq/ Mesopotamia and Egypt). The importance of this 
link can be seen in a conference on Middle Eastern Cities 
organised by Lapidus which emphasised the continuity of 
urban traditions in the area (Lapidus ed. 1969). One of 
the first writers to approach the subject of early cities was 
the eminent prehistorian V. G. Childe (1892-1957) who 
discussed it in two books Man Makes Himself (\936) and 
What Happened in History (1942). He gave a list of 
innovations which enabled humans to transform Neolithic 
settlements to urban centres. The list included writing, 
use of animals for traction, wheeled carts, the plough, 
metallurgy, standard units of measurement, sailing boats, 
surplus production, craft specialization, irrigation and 
mathematics. There are obvious problems with this 
approach which would deny urban status to major 
civilizations on the basis of the absence of one or more of 
these attributes. For example the absence of writing in the 
Maya and Inca cultures would disqualify them from 
mban status as arguably would the absence of wheeled 
transport in much of the Islamic world. Writers who have 
criticized Childc's approach include Lamberg-Karlovsky 
(1979, 165) who stated "...such a list is of very little help 
in defining civilization". Adams (1979) proposed a more 
sociological approach based on three criteria which may 
be summarized as follows; 

1) Class stratification, each stratum marked by a highly 
different degree of ownership or control of the main 
productive resources. 

2) Political and religious hierarchies complementing each 
other in the administration of territorially organized 

3) Complex division of labour, with full-time craftsmen, 
servants, soldiers and officials existing alongside the 
great mass of primary peasant producers. 

However Adams warned against too rigid a definition by 
observing "There is not one origin of cities, but as many 
as there are independent cultural traditions with an urban 
way of life" (Adams 1979, 177). 

Andrew Petersen 

Within his discussion of the "Origin of Cities" Adams 
gives a description of early towns as revealed by 
excavations which may be useful in defining typical 
urban features. Firstly he observes that whilst the earliest 
towns may have been no larger than the "farming villages 
of the pre-urban era" they were "more densely built up 
and more formally laid out along a rectangular grid of 
streets or lanes". There would be large public buildings 
(temples) which formed the focus of a radiating street 
pattern. The streets were unpaved "but straight and wide 
enough for the passage of solid wheeled carts or 
chariots". The main streets were lined with large 
residences whilst those of the poorer people were located 
in alleyways behind. Although there was no public 
market (private commerce had not yet appeared) 
mercantile activity was concentrated at the quays or by 
the city gates. The town was surrounded by "massive 
fortifications that guarded the city against nomadic raids 
and the usually formidable campaigns of neighboring 

From the above description it can be seen that many of 
the features of early cities continued to be characteristics 
of pre-modem cities. 

Classical (Greek and Roman) Urbanism 

It is a commonplace that many of our own, modern 
perceptions of urbanism are derived from Classical, 
Greek and Roman, civilization. This is true both in terms 
of philosophy and actual towns and cities. Our words to 
describe towns and cities are mostly derived from Greek 
and Latin (e.g. Polls, urbs, civitas and munlclpam) and 
many of the physical attributes which wc identify with 
cities originated in this period. Examples include 
orthogonal town planning (see urban planning) and public 
buildings such as baths, theatres, hippodromes and 
markets (the Greek agora and Roman forum). However, 
probably the most significant development was the 
political and social organisation of towns and cities which 
was later used as a model for political systems. For 
example the word 'civilize/civilization' implies that 
citizens (cives) have a higher status than 'rustics' or 
•pagans' the inhabitants of the countryside (/us) and 
villages (pagi). 

One of the consequences of the identification of Western 
culture with the cities of the Classical world is that it 
implies that cities arc a (Western) European institution 
and that other urban traditions are somehow less pure. 
This view ignores the fact that Western Europe was 
influenced by other urban traditions (e.g. Viking) and that 
there was a strong element of continuity of Classical 
civilization in the Near East which was absorbed by 
Islamic tradition (the elements of continuity are evident 
in the cities of Palestine see for example Baysan). For the 
present it is sufficient to state that Islamic urbanism had 
both Classical and more ancient Near Eastern roots. 

Medieval Urbanism in Europe 

Medieval Europe is of direct interest when studying 
medieval Islamic urbanism both because of the common 
roots and the comparable timcscale. In the past, studies of 
medieval urbanism have concentrated on the 
development of civic institutions and associations (e.g. 
guilds) which made them the semi-autonomous 
settlements described by Weber. According to Postan 
(1972, 212) towns were "Non-feudal islands in a feudal 
sea". Today, however, they are seen as an integral part of 
the feudal system subject to an ecclesiastical, lay or royal 
lord (Swanson 1999, 3). Similarly borough status is now 
thought to be less important than previously as "in all 
parts of the British Isles there "■were places called 
boroughs that never developed into towns. Equally there 
were settlements functioning as towns for decades before 
they were formally made boroughs" (Swanson 1999, 2). 
The primary qualification for urban status is today 
thought to be the existence of a market (Swanson 1999, 
2-3 sec also Carter 1981, 7). For example Miller and 
Hatcher (1980, 70) give the following definition of a 

"Towns were above all markets. ...they were relatively 
densely populated centres that could not be self sufficient 
in foodstuffs... [they were] manufacturing centres.. ..and 
the sale of their manufactures was the obvious way to pay 
for the foodstuffs and the materials the countryside 
provided, [as] established centres of trade [they were] 
able to offer the appropriate facilities to travellers and 
traders, they were natural ports of call for long range 

Early Modern Urbanism 

In his work on the Mediterranean, Braudcl saw towns and 
cities as primarily products of geography. They owed 
their existence to roads (including sea routes) which in 
turn were dependant on the towns. He expresses this 
relationship as follows " The Mediterranean as a human 
unit is the combination over an area of route networks 
and urban centres, lines of force and nodal points" 
(Braudcl 1972, I, 277). Within this simple definition he 
proposed a rough typology of towns, though taking care 
to point out that the categories were fluid and I 
overlapped 1 . The basic divisions were as follows: 
bureaucratic towns, commercial towns, industrial towns, 
financial towns, agricultural towns, clerical and military 
towns. Within these categories there were further 
divisions, thus industrial towns could be cither capitalist 
or led by artisans. There were also relationships between 
particular categories, thus Braudcl postulated thai a 
commercial city which had some difficulty in its trading 
functions might develop into an industrial city and 
when both commerce and industry were in declin« 
banking might take over. In this case the differed 
categories may represent different phases in the life of 

1 Much of the typology of towns employed by Braudel was boiraMj 
from the Spanish historian Felipe Martin. 

The Towns of Palestine Under Muslim Rule 

one city. Other considerations which need to be made arc 
between different ranks of city and the relationship 
between cities and neighbouring towns (Braudcl 1972, I, 
316-325). The importance of Braudel's typology for the 
present study is that it shows the variety of urban 
settlement and the complexity of any categorisation. 

Review of islamic Urban Theory 
(Historiography of Islamic Urbanism) 

The literature on the Islamic city is considerable and 
stretches over a number of disciplines including, 
architecture, archaeology, history, town planning, 
anthropology and sociology*. Theoretical work, however, 
has tended to be a product of the latter two disciplines 
whilst archaeology has until recently provided very little 
theoretical thought on the nature of the Islamic cities. 
Much of the following review is therefore more 
concerned with defining the concept of the Islamic city 
rather than with specific issues about their origins, 
physical lay-out, typologies or functions (these other 
issues will be discussed in the later chapters). The 
following discussion will first consider Arabic concepts 
of the Islamic city and then look at the development of 
Western thinking on Islamic urbanism. 

Cities are present in Islamic thought from the inception of 
the religion both in the practical sense that Muhammad 
was from a city and from the fact that cities are 
represented in the Koran (see for example Sura 42:7). 
Interest in Islamic urbanism is demonstrated in Arabic 
writing from at least the tenth century. For example the 
geographer al-Muqaddasi wrote a discussion of the 
subject as a preface to his list of town and cities. In this 
discussion he ranks settlements by analogy with political 
administration, thus capitals arc listed as kings, provincial 
capitals as chamberlains, ordinary towns as cavalrymen 
and villages as foot soldiers. He was aware that there 
were problems of definition particularly over what 
constituted a metropolis: jurists defined it as a place with 
a large population, with its own courts and resident 
governor and the ability to pay public expenses from its 
own revenue; lexicographers define it as a place between 
two regions; and the lay-man defines it as any large and 
important town. Muqaddasi's own definition was 
primarily political: according to him a metropolis was the 
residence of a ruler with attendant administration and was 
dominant over neighbouring cities (al-Muqaddasi, ed. de 
Goejc 1906, 84-5) 3 . 

In the fourteenth century Ibn Khaldun (1337-1406) 
devoted part of his monumental work al-Miu/addimah to 
a consideration of the nature of cities/towns. He believed 
that cities were repositories of sedentary culture {iimran 
hadara ' jj-^* '_>» ' ) as opposed to the nomadic lifestyle 
{umran badawa I ls>^ 'j- ' ) practised by herdsmen and 
mountain dwellers. The source of sedentary life in a city 

was the power of a ruler or dynasty who provided 
security and stability. Ibn Khaldun explained his views as 
follows "... because cities have a highly developed 
civilization and their inhabitants arc very prosperous, and 
the dynasty is at the root of it, because the dynasty 
collects the property of the subjects and spend it on the 
inner circle and on the men connected with it who are 
more influential by reason of their position than by reason 
of their property". However he also he thought that city 
life corrupted rulers and dynasties which had originated 
in the harsh but pure lifestyle of the nomad (umran 
badawa I yS & ^y '). This was the reason for the 
instability which he observed was endemic in the life of 
North Africa in the fourteenth century (Ibn Khaldun The 
Muqaddimah, II. 286-7). Perhaps because of this Ibn 
Khaldun portrays "... a deep rooted prejudice, a profound 
antipathy, towards the urban population accusing them of 
every possible fault and vice" (Lacoste 1984, 118). 
Modern writers such as Yves Lacoste (1984,118-31), 
have suggested that the reason for Ibn Khaldun's hostility 
to city dwellers was that he perceived them to lack a civic 
solidarity or the urban equivalent of 'asabiya (^w-^), 
tribal solidarity. In many respects this fits in well with 
Max Weber's view of the Islamic city discussed below 
although an important limitation should be borne in mind. 
Ibn Khaldun was only writing from his experience of 
North Africa and specifically contrasts the instability of 
this area with the stability of the medieval Hast. 

Western interest in the Islamic city began with the work 
of the famous German sociologist Max Weber (1864- 
1920) writing in the early twentieth century. Weber 
developed theories about the development of world 
society, which have often been regarded as a response to 
Karl Marx's materialist explanation of world history . His 
most famous theory identified Protestantism with the 
growth of capitalism. Although Weber did not articulate a 
fully developed theory about Islam he dealt with the 
subject in a number of works (see Turner 1974 for 
Weber's writings on Islam). He had a negative view of 
Islam (which he accused of having a purely hedonist 
spirit "especially towards women, luxuries and property") 
and regarded it as the 'polar opposite of Puritanism' 
which he believed was the spirit behind the development 
of capitalism (Turner 1974, 12). It is perhaps significant 
that Weber wrote during the period of the final collapse 
of the Ottoman Umpire which, in the nineteenth and early 
twentieth centuries, was characterised as in terminal 
decline'. Weber had a particular interest in cities which 
he saw as fundamental to the development of European 
Puritanism and capitalism (e.g. Weber The City New 
York 1960 and 1966). He argued that Islam impeded the 
growth of autonomous cities because of its warrior 
religiosity and patrimonialism. He laid down five pre- 
conditions for the development of urban communities 
which were described at the start of this chapter (see also 

: tor a recent bibliography ol the Islamic city sec Monine ct al IV14. 
' For a recenl discussion ol" Muqaddasi's categorisation of towns and 
cities see Wheatley (200 1 . 74-84). 

1 Turner (1974. 12) convincingly rejects this interpretation of Weber's 


5 See for example William Elton 1809, 126-7 quoted in Vucinich 1965, 


Andrew Petersen 

Weber The City 1966, 80-1). According to Weber Islamic 
cities lacked at least two of these elements (i.e. partial 
autonomy and a form of association) which meant that 
they did not constitute cities in a European sense (cf Ibn 
Kaldun above). 

Although there is some doubt as to whether Weber's 
definition could even be applied to most European cities 
his criteria became a subject of debate amongst scholars 
of Islam and led to the development of theories of Islamic 
urbanism. The most prominent of these theories may be 
referred to as the Marcais/Von Grunebaum 
model/stereotype. The aim of this model was to 
demonstrate that Muslim cities had a unique identity 
which made them different from, but equal to, European 

Janet Abu Lughod (1987) has given a critical review of 
this theory that has formed the starting point for most 
recent research in this field (see for example AlSayyad 
1991). She has aptly compared the tradition of 
scholarship in this area to an isnad ( jLi -< ') or chain of 
tradition in Islamic history whereby one follows a 
particular chain of authority to establish a particular fact 
or way of thought. According to this system some chains 
are thought to be more secure than others (Abu Luhgod 
1987, Alsayyad 1991, Insoll 1999, 202). Abu Lughod 's 
research will also serve as a basis for the following 
review of the Marcais/Von Grunebaum model/stereotype 
modified by my own observations. 

The origins of this thesis are to be found in the work of 
the Marcais brothers carried out in North Africa and 
published in the 1920s and 1940s (Fig 1). In an article 
published in 1928 William Marcais made several 
observations which were to become fundamental in the 
creation of a model or stereotype Islamic City (Marcais 
1928). Firstly he observed that Islam is an urban religion, 
that Muhammad was a member of the urban bourgeoisie 
and that all the early caliphs were of urban origin'. He 
also observed that the concept of Friday prayer in a 
congregational Mosque was a reflection of the urban 
nature of the religion. He identified three physical 
elements which were part of the Muslim city, a Friday 
Mosque (Masjid jami) , a market (sua) and a public bath 
house (hammam). More than ten years later Georges 
Marcais developed the ideas of his brother re-enforcing 
the urban nature of Islam as a religion by quoting F.rncst 
Renan "The Mosque, like the synagogue and the church, 
is a thing essentially urban. Islamism is a religion of 
cities". Georges Marcais also added three elements to the 
physical composition of the typical Islamic city. 1) a 
differentiation between commercial and residential 
quarters 2) the segregation of residential quarters 
according to ethnicity or specialization 3) a hierarchical 
order of trades in the markets starting with cleaner, less 
polluting, trades near the mosque (Marcais 19-15). 

The work of the Marcais brothers formed the basis for 

s Compare this to Weber"s claim of warrior religiosity (Turner 1974,95). 

subsequent work on Islamic cities by the French scholars 
Le Tourneau and Rerque. Roger Le Tourneau modified 
the stereotype to fit the city of Fez, which he then 
presented as the typical North African city ( Le Tourneau 
1957). Jacques Bcrque also followed the stereotype 
established by the Marcais brothers but added a 
functional dimension stating that the city was primarily a 
place of witness and exchange. These two functions were 
represented by the three elements identified by William 
Marcais, a Friday Mosque, a market and a public 
bathhouse (Berque 1958). In the 1940s another French 
scholar Jean Sauvaget embarked on a study of the Syrian 
cities of Aleppo and Damascus. He was obviously aware 
of the model of a typical Islamic city developed by his 
colleagues in North Africa and saw that it could not be 
directly applied to the cities of Syria which had their 
origins in Greco-Roman town plans. In response 
Sauvaget developed his own model of an Islamic city 
based on the ideas developed by Marcais, Le Tourneau 
and Berque but modified by the physical elements that he 
had observed in Damascus (Fig. 2). His typical Syrian 
Islamic city had four principal elements: a market (suq) 
developed out of the prc-Islamic colonnaded street, a 
mosque which occupied the site of a church or pre- 
Islamic temple, a central square from pre-lslamic times 
(which gradually became filled with houses and shops) 
and a citadel which was often located on a hill (Sauvaget 
1934; 1941). 

The work of Sauvaget and Marcais was later developed 
by the famous German American orientalist Von 
Grunebaum. who, in a series of articles, outlined the form 
of the typical Islamic city. He merged the Syrian and 
North African models together to produce a composite 
stereotype of an Islamic city. He also made two of his 
own additions to the model: 1) that The Friday Mosque is 
placed along the main thoroughfare or at the rectangular 
crossing of the two main thoroughfares, which is usually 
marked by a spread out square; 2) that near the Jami 
(Friday mosque) we find the principal government 
buildings or palace of the ruler (von (Jrunebaum 1955). 
Unlike Sauvaget and the Marcais brothers von 
Gruncbaum's work was not based on any real cities yet it 
became established as a model to which later writers 
referred. The study of Islamic cities had thus become a 
theoretical discipline in which real cities were secondary 
to the model Islamic city. During the 1960s 
Gruncbaums's typical Islamic city was implicitly 
accepted by a number of scholars including Jairazbhoy 
(1965). Ismail (1969) and Monicr (1971). Although each 
of these studies questioned some of the details of the Von 
Grunebaum thesis they all accepted its assumption of a 
typical Islamic city with specific identifiable features. For 
example Jaira/bhoy challenged writers such as dc Planhol I 
(1957) who stated that the Islamic city was characterised I 
by irregularity and anarchy by referring to the inherent 
plan in the typical Islamic city as defined by Marcais, I 
Sauvaget and others. Ironically the assertion of chaos in I 
Islamic cities by dc Planhol and others were also based I 
on the Marcais/ Von Oruncbaum model. The Lebanese! 
architect Monier (1971) adapted the model to fit his own I 

The Towns of Palestine Under Muslim Rule 

area of research, which was the medieval city of Cairo 
whilst another Arab scholar Ismail (1969) attempted a 
more historical approach based on early Arab sources 
before reverting to the Marcais /von Grunebaum plan. 
Within the wider field of Islamic studies this model was 
propagated by the historian Albert Mourani who in 1970 
organized a conference on the Islamic city (Hourani and 
Stern 1970). The proceedings of this conference were 
later published and became a reference point for 
subsequent studies. For example Heinz Gaube published 
a book on Iranian cities in which he tried to establish a 
model for the Iranian city as a variation of the typical 
Islamic city (1979). Samuel Noe adopted a similar 
approach in his work on the city of Lahore in Pakistan 
which he directly compared it to the Islamic city of 
Marcais and Von Grunebaum (Noe 1980). 

By the late 1960s there were a number of scholars (eg 
Cahen 1970 and Aubin 1970) who questioned the model 
by demonstrating that many of the unique characteristics 
of the Islamic city "were in fact those of the medieval 
Italian city, the Byzantine city, or even the Asian or 
Chinese city" (Alsayyad 1991. 36). One of the most 
important critics of the established view was Ira Lapidus. 
In his book Muslim Cities of the Later Middle Ages he 
analysed Islamic cities as social systems in their own 
right rather than in comparison with European stereotypes 
(Lapidus 1967). He concluded that the Islamic city was 
formed hy a number of groups which he identified as the 
military elites, the ullema (religious leaders), merchants 
and notables, and urban commoners. The cities were 
ruled by the military elites with the tacit support of the 
merchants and ullema. Later Lapidus developed these 
views at a conference on The Middle Eastern City in 
which he wrote " We can no longer think of Muslim 
cities as unique. ..cities were physical entities but not 
unified social bodies defined by characteristically Muslim 
qualities" (Lapidus 1969,73). Lapidus was here referring 
to what he believed to be an artificial distinction between 
urban and rural settlement, although the obvious 
implication is that Islamic cities are not a distinct form of 
urban development as proposed by the Marcais/ von 
Grunebaum model. A further attack on the Marcais/ Von 
Grunebaum model came in the 1970's with the 
publication of Edward Said's important work Orientalism 
(Said 1978). Said questioned the basis of Western 
scholarship which regarded "the East" as interesting but 
Bsentially inferior. He also made the point that much of 
Western scholarship was written from a standpoint of 
colonial domination. Although Said did not directly 
concern himself with the issue of Islamic cities, the 
implications of his work for the Marcais/ von Grunebaum 
model are clear. The model had originated with the work 
of Marcais and Sauvaget both of whom worked for 
French colonial regimes whilst Von Grunebaum was 
singled out for particular criticism by Said, who accused 
him of an "almost virulent dislike of Islam" (1978, 296). 

The combined effect of Said's influential writing on 
Orientalism and Lapidus's work on the social structure of 
medieval Islamic cities meant that the Marcais/Von 

Grunebaum model was discredited in many academic 
circles (see for example Abu Lughod 1987, Alsayyad 
1991 and Insoll 1999). However other scholars have 
continued to use and develop the model. Thus at a 
conference on the Middle Eastern City Saggaf rejected 
Lapidus' assertion that Muslim cities were not unified 
social bodies by stating ".... Muslim cities do have certain 
distinctive features. They have a unique layout and 
physical design, the central focus point of which is 
always a Maidan around a castle or palace on the one 
hand and the central mosque on the other hand." (Saggaf 

Alsayyad has characterized Saggaf and other recent 
supporters of the model as 'political nationalists'. He 
defines the group as follows: "they arc mostly from very 
traditional Arab societies ,... their research is mainly 
sponsored by countries with strong political ideologies, 
or., their writing has a strong nationalistic tone" 
(Alsayyad 1991, 38-9) He includes in this group a 
number of Arabic/Muslim scholars including Akbar 
(1989), al-Halthoul (1981 ) and Hakim (1986). Alsayyad 
suggests that these writers wanted to protect the notion of 
the Arab city as defined by Marcais and Von Grunebaum 
as they regarded it as part of their institutional identity. 
This was regardless of the fact that the model was 
invented by foreign 'orientalist' scholars. According to 
Hakim, for example. Islamic cities were determined by 
Muslim laws which guided building measurements, plot 
dimensions and other aspects of the building process. He 
summarised his views as follows; "Hence all cities in the 
Arabic and Islamic world inhabited by Muslims share an 
Islamic identity which is directly due to the application of 
sharia values to the process of city building." (Hakim 
1986, 137-9). In contrast to this strong detenninisl 
position other Muslim scholars have developed ideas 
based on other aspects of Islamic culture. For example 
Ardlan and Bakhtiar (1973) have used Sufism as a way of 
exploring city design, suggesting that the location of 
mosque is a symbol of the unity of Islam. Nezzar 
AlSayyad (1991) on the other hand, believes that the 
character of Islamic urbanism can best be understood by 
examining the physical layout of the earliest Islamic 

Another approach to the theory of Islamic cities is what 
may be termed a regional approach. This sees Islamic 
urbanism as a product of a particular historical 
geography. Two notable proponents of this approach are 
Ferdinand Braudel and K.N.Chaudliuri. There is much 
similarity between their work with both choosing a body 
of water as the defining geographical indicator, in the 
case of Braudel the Mediterranean and with Chaudhuri 
the Indian Ocean. 

Braudel specifically rejected Weber's view of Western 
[European] towns as the ideal urban type replacing it 
instead with the statement that " a town is a town 
wherever it is" (1977, 1,481). He saw Islamic cities in the 
Middle Bast and North Africa as a part of a 
Mediterranean culture; " I retain the firm conviction that 

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concentrate wealth, and convey a sacred aura to the 
locality; and 3) the city was founded, or occupied and 
transformed in many ways, by foreigners bringing 
different life styles, imposing new patterns of behavior, 
md stimulating change" (Gulick 1983, 102). Whilst one 
or more of these attributes would fit most major Middle 
Eastern cities Gulick (1983, 85 and 102-3) also admits 
that by using the same criteria Huriedah in southern 
Yemen would qualify as a city even though its population 
was little over 2000. 

Another way of dealing with the problem of urban 
hierarchies is central place theory whereby settlements 
are assessed by their functions rather than their size. 
According to this system cities (regional centres) are 
centres of long distance trade and intermediate towns are 
"lower order" distribution centres between regional 
centres and local markets. There are some problems with 
this approach which relies on an accurate knowledge of 
the urban network and trade routes and an awareness that 
relationships between centres change over time (see 
Swanson 1999, 24-5). One issue that may be worth 
considering in this respect is the division of city functions 
amongst a number of towns; for example in late medieval 
Pembrokeshire the functions of a city were shared by 
Pembroke (military centre), Haverfordwest (commercial 
centre) and St.Davids (cathedral and religious centre). 

Planned Settlements 

In the discussion of the typical Islamic city above it can 
be seen that there has been a tendency to characterise it as 
anarchic and unplanned compared with the rational layout 
of the European planned city. The origin and 
development of these ideas have been discussed in some 
detail above. The aim of this section is to investigate the 
concept of planned settlement by looking at its origins, 
history and variations in other traditions. 

Although planned towns are present in most traditions 
(Classical, Byzantine, Islamic, Western Medieval, South 
Bast Asia) they have never formed a great proportion of 
flat total. The geographer Stanislawski (1946, 105) tried 
to establish common reasons behind the establishment of 
planned cities. He identified five conditions that would 
cable a grid plan to develop. 

gjj 1) The settlement in question must be a new town or a 

new part of a town 
l|f 2) The planning must be under central control 
| 3) The city is often built as a colonial enterprise 
4) There should be a measured disposition of available 

| 5) There should be a knowledge of the grid. 

Carter (1981, 151) argued that the most important of 
these criteria was the need for centralized political control 
■ this was an independent variable that could be used in 
analysis of city plan. However the other conditions, 
particularly 1) and 3), are also useful fur coinpaiaiivc 

The Towns of Palestine Under Muslim Rule 

Before reviewing the origins and history of planned 
settlements it is worth defining what the phrase means. 
Generally the term refers to cities or towns which have 
been laid out on a rectangular or square grid although 
other layouts are possible such as the radial plan evident 
in the round city of Baghdad (see Chapter 3) or the city of 
Srikshetra in Burma. Another example of a radial plan 
was the city of Circleville in Ohio (USA) which was built 
on the site of an Indian settlement. It is perhaps 
significant that within 19 years of its foundation the radial 
plan was converted to the rectangular grid pattern more 
familiar to American cities. One can speculate the reasons 
for this change although it is likely that the radial plan 
was thought to contain too much memory of an Indian 
culture which they wished to suppress (see Reps 1965). 


In South East Asia cities were often planned to represent 
an image of the universe; examples include the city of 
Angkor Thorn in Cambodia and the city of Srikshetra in 


Although there is some evidence of town planning as 
early as the Middle Bronze Age (see for example Ilan 
1998, 309) the origin of planned cities is generally traced 
to the Classical, in particular Greek, world. Greek 
tradition ascribes the invention of city planning to 
Hippodamus of Miletus (fl.c.500 B.C.) although 
archaeologists have found rectangular orthagonal city 
plans from as early as the seventh century B.C. (e.g. 
Smyrna , near modern Izmir). Hippodamus "devised an 
ideal city to be inhabited by ten thousand citizens, 
divided into three thousand citizens, divided into three 
classes (soldiers, artisans, and husbandmen) and with the 
land also divided into three parts (sacred, public, and 
private)." (Fleming, Honour and Pevsner 1980, 155). 
Although Hippodamus was not himself an architect and 
did not personally supervise the construction of any cities 
he is generally thought to be responsible for the layout of 
Piraeus (the port of Athens) founded by Themistocles c. 
470 B.C. Other early examples of cities with a regular 
layout include Olynthus built in the second half of the 
fifth century (Finley, 1977, 158). However regular plans 
were not common until the Hellenistic period with 
Aristotle criticising them as militarily inefficient, m the 
Hellenistic period (from c 350 B.C.) regular ('gridiron') 
city plans became common, the most famous example of 
which is Alexandria in Egypt. In Palestine examples of 
Hellenistic planning include the cities of Dor and Marissa 
as well as some smaller towns (see Stern 1998 437-441). 
Hellenistic architecture and city planning were later 
adopted and developed by the Romans so that regular 
streets intersecting at right angles became the norm . 
However these 'gridiron' plans were not necessarily 
rectangular as is often assumed. According to 
Collingwood and Richmond " The error is due to 
confusion between towns and camps. Roman towns as 
defined by the line of their defences are not very often 
rectangular in outline unless they began their life as 
military fortresses..." (1969, 100) . 

Andrew Petersen 

In the Middle East Roman methods of town planning 
continued during the Byzantine period (324-640) 
"expressed in broad colonnaded, or arcaded streets" 
(Patrich 1998, 474; c.f. Mango 1979, 20). In Europe the 
situation in late antique (Dark Ages) and early medieval 
times was more complicated depending on the 
relationship of the settlement to the boundaries of the 
former Roman empire (Herrmann 1991 quoted in 
Schofield and Vince 1994, 13). In many towns there was 
considerable continuity of site though not necessarily of 
form or function (Schofield and Vince 1994, 14-16; 
Knight 1999, 26-37). New towns were created as early as 
the eighth and ninth centuries though the best surviving 
examples are from Wales and Gascony in the thirteenth 
and fourteenth centuries. The Welsh towns built by 
Edward 1 were laid out next to a castle and had regular 
plans divided into horizontal strips. It has, however, been 
suggested that the commercial life was never vigorous 
and that they were essentially military towns (c.f. 
comment by Richmond and Collingwood 1969, 100 
quoted above). The bastide towns of Gascony have more 
the appearance of planned towns with three main 
variations of the Roman grid plan 1) Aquitaine type 
divided by streets into rectangular blocks sub- divided by 
narrow lanes, 2) Mirande type with square blocks divided 
by regular streets, 3) Gimont which has "two or three 
major parallel streets crossed by smaller transverse streets 
so that the blocks have a rectangular shape" (Schofield 
and Vince 1994, 28-35). Perhaps of more relevance to 
Islamic planning are the new towns established by the 
Crusaders in the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem . The plans 
of these towns have not been fully investigated although 
where the evidence is available the plans appear to be 
fairly simple based on a single main street as at al-Bira 
and al-Qubaiba (Pringle 1995, 72-3; Pringle 1997, 35-6 & 

The majority of urban sites have a cumulative plan which 
may incorporate planned elements though the final result 
may not be particularly regular (cf Schofield and Vince 
1994, 34-5). 

Questions of Population 

Any discussion of urbanism must take into account 
questions of population. This generally involves some 
measure of quantification which may be dependant on 
one of a variety of sources. This is not an exact science 
and results can vary greatly depending on the source 
available and the methods used. Even in the modern 
world this poses problems thus the United Nations (1969) 
published a "List of definitions used in the estimation of 
"Urban" populations as nationally defined" (see also 
Carter 1981, 17). For the medieval past the problem 
becomes more acute thus a recent study of the population 
of Norwich in the 1330's has raised the population 
estimate by two thirds from 15,000 to 25,000 (Rutledge 
1988. 27 cited in Swanson 1999, 14 n.21). With such 

wide variations considerable caution must be applied 
when discussing population figures even when there aw 
documentary records. When there are no relevant written 
records archaeological methods may be applied although 
these have their own problems of interpretation (see 
Chapter 2). For the purposes of this thesis a ratio of one 
person per 10m 2 is used based on the estimate devised by 
Naroll (1962) using a diverse sample of known person- 
housing space ratios. 

The absolute size of urban populations varies greatly with 
both time and space though not necessarily in the way 
one would expect. For example the city of Uruk in the 
Early Dynastic Period (c. 3000- 2500 BQ is thought to 
have had a population of 50,000 people (Adams 1979, 
177) whereas three thousand years later the average town f 
in Medieval Britain (1 100-1300) had a populati on. of teas | 
than 2000 (Swanson 1999, 14). Even if one coarifcn ti»> 
population of the largest Medieval European eWetJ 
(Schofield and Vincel994, 19) such as Ghent (56,000 ml 
1360), London (80,000-100,000 in 1340), Cologa^ 
(40,000) and Bruges (35,000) as well as Milan, Venf ' 
Naples, Florence and Palermo (all over 50,000 in 
thirteenth century) there is still no great difference 
scale. The same situation applies to the Medieval Mi J 
East with large cities such as Damascus and Aleppo 
estimated populations in the tens of thousands ahf 
there were notable exceptions such as Cairo and Ba 
both with populations estimated at half a million (N 
Cairo see Lombard 1971, 26 and 138 and for Bt^ 
see Lassner 1970, 160,282-3). 

In view of these figures it is likely that there were > 
limitations on urban size in the pre-modern period ■ 
researchers agree that medieval urban populationi 
not able to reproduce themselves and were dependant i 
immigration from rural areas'. The limitations W 
primarily the result of two factors 1) food distribution ( 
2) density of settlement: 

1) At its worst problems with food distribution 
result in a famine. This situation was not unconm 
indicated by Braudel in the following statenw*| 
Because of the slowness and prohibitive prier> 
transport and the unreliability of harvests, any 
centre could be exposed to famine at any time 
year" (1972,328). Although the countryside coul 
be exposed to famine it normally "struck only/T 
towns" (1972, 328). Chaudhuri (1990, 370) m * 
important point that famines need not only 
foodstuffs but may relate to other products. 1 
Egyptian famine of 1201 firewood became scare* I 
as Chaudhuri observes " A city without fuel wit* 
better than one without food". 

' TUCTC is Sim.c J*Im»« *» lo whoihw *•« MMlerru^.* Annld be 
considered towns or villages c.f. Pringle 1995, 71 and Boas 1999. 63-5. 

' There were limitations on urban size in the pre-modern period j 
the introduction of mechanized transport and industrial procMKii 
enabled efficient food distribution to a large population. 
' Braudel states; " Another regular feature of Meditemnem 
that the urban proletariat cannot maintain itself, let alone 
without the help of continuous immigration" (1972. 334) 
Swanson 1999, ] 13 and Chaudhuri 1990, 370. 

2) Density of settlement was related to on a number of 
factors including type of housing, street lay-out and 
sanitation. The two main problems associated with high 
density populations were fire and epidemics. Fires were 
more of a problem in northern Europe where timber 
used in construction was more plentiful whilst 
epidemics were potentially more lethal in the warmer 
climates of the Middle East 10 . 

Relationship to Countryside 

Researchers in all disciplines no longer regard urban and 
rural settlements as sharply divided. The point is 
forcefully made in a United Nations report which stated 
■There is no point in the continuum from large 
agglomeration to small clusters or scattered dwellings 
where urbanity disappears and rurality begins; the 
division between urban and rural populations is 
necessarily arbitrary" (United Nations 1952). 

Instead the continuities between the two forms of 
settlement are emphasised. For example the 
■nthropologist John Gulick notes that "cities are special 
in the eyes of Middle Easterners and foreign observers" 
yet points out that this does not necessarily reflect the 
reality of daily life. In particular he states " many of the 

broad areas of most peoples* concerns are expressed 

in patterns of behaviour that are basically similar, when 
they are not identical, among city dwellers, townsmen, 
villagers and even pastoralists". Gulick also points out 
that migrants form the countryside add a rural element to 
many cities and towns which Hopkins (1974, 432) has 
called the "ruralization" of cities. However Gulick is 
careful in his use of this term stating "one can say that the 
Middle Eastern Cities have continually been "ruralized" 
throughout history and that "ruralization" has been a 
continuous process in the dynamics of the cultural 
heterogeneity of cities" (Gulick 1983, 136). 

Ik interdependence of urban and rural is also recognized 
by archaeologists studying the origins of urbanism in the 
Middle East (see for example Roaf 1990, 58). The 
foportance of this relationship can be seen by comparing 
the amount of agricultural land needed by the city of 
Uiuk in the Uruk period and in the following Jemdet Nasr 
period. During the Uruk period the area of land required 
10 feed the population would have been contained within 
a six kilometre radius, close enough to be cultivated by 
fanners living in the city. In the Jemdet Nasr period the 
'•** population would have grown to such an extent that the 
im, bad needed to support the population would have been 
1 contained within a sixteen kilometre radius, in other 
words the city could not have survived without food 
provided from other settlements. 

»cf BraudeU 1977,1, 332 "The cities of the East suffered its [plague! 
urn often than others. For a full description of the progress of the 
tteue during the Middle Ages sec Dolls (1971) for a contemporary 
■Seal description of the symptoms of the plague which specifically 
ifcuuGws towns with th. n>id em ic <~ ihn al-Khatib translated in 
Unmann 1978, 94-5). 

The Towns of Palestine Under Muslim Rule 

A similar situation exista in the study of Medieval British 
towns thus Swanson (1999, 3) states "the idea that towns 
can be defined as a legally distinct entity is nowadays 
given short shrift, but it is not something that can be 
ignored completely, because it mattered to 
contemporaries". Later on Swanson dismisses Postan's 
definition of towns as 'non feudal islands in a feudal sea' 
by stating that they are now seen as "one expression of 
feudal lordship". Within the field of Islamic history the 
idea of an urban rural continuum was first developed by 
Ira Lapidus (1969, 60-69 in the face of strong opposition 
(see above Islamic Urbanism). For example he pointed 
out that cities often had an agricultural component (1969, 
64-6) whilst villages had urban components. He 
suggested that in some cases it was more valid to talk of 
larger entities where "whole regions may be imagined as 
composite "cities" in which the population was divided 
into non-contiguous, spatially isolated settlements". He 
prefaced these observations with the statement that "in 
many situations, no absolute distinction between urban 
and rural habitats may be drawn" (Lapidus 1969,60. 
Although Lapidus perhaps overstated his case be did 
bring the study of Islamic urbanism into line with other 
disciplines looking at urbanism in a wider context. 
However this view has not necessarily filtered into 
archaeological studies of Islamic culture. Thus in a recent 
work on Islamic Archaeology, Insoll has a chapter 
entitled "The Community Environment" in which he 
mostly discusses urban settlement because of "the large 
scale absence of archaeological studies concerned with 
other [i.e. non urban] settlement types" (Insoll 1999, 


From this review it can be seen that the cultural diversity 
of actual towns is equalled by the range of views as to 
what constitutes a town. Although these problems may 
seem daunting it is necessary to have some working 
concepts of what constitutes a town in order to assess the 
fate of towns in Muslim Palestine. The features which 
appear to be particularly important in defining a town are; 
1) a significant population size, 2) fortifications 3) 
religious buildings 4) public buildings 5) commercial 
buildings 6) industrial activity. 

1) The most obvious criterion for urban status must be 
that it is a settlement with a population of significant 
size. Although it is possible to have a village with a 
very large population it is not possible to have a town 
with a very small population. The problem, of course, 
is deciding what constitutes a large population. The 
answer will vary depending on the culture and period 
in question. For prc-Modern Muslim Palestine a 
population of more than 1000 seems to be a reasonable 
minimum figure for an urban population. 

2) The second criterion is that many towns will posses 
some form of fortification either in the form of a town 
wall or a citadel. In pre-modern times walls were useful 
not only as a form of defence but as a way of 
distinguishing th«* town from the surrounding 

Lnrfnrw P«tsnm 

countryside. The citadel if a symbol of miUtary 
authority tad may also function as an administrative 
and legal centre for a town. 

1) The ibiid criterion is that towns generally have at least 
one buikting for religious assembly. Usually towns will 
have more than one religious building and in larger 
towns a variety of faiths may be represented. 

t) Most towns will also have a number of secular public 
buildings. For the Byzantine and Islamic period the 
most common secular public building is' the public 

5) Towns should be centres of commercial activity. 
Although villages, or even uninhabited areas, may W 
markets most commercial activity takes place » an 
urban environment. Within the Islamic Middle 
market activity is indicated by the presence of 
suqs, caravanserais or shop units. 

6) The sixth criteria ii **«n*tofm will have some 
form of industrial activity. This does not have to be 
heavy industry such as "me production of metal but it 
must be distinct fiom agricultural production Typical 
industries in medieval and early Islamic Palestine 
include the production of pottery, metalwork, glass, 
textiles and jewellery. 

Often the production and the sale of goods would be 
carried out in the same area thus jewellery would often be 
made and sold from the same building. 

A town need not possess all of these features, though as a 
minimum it should have a significant size and some form 
of commercial activity. 


The' pt&sedm'g chapter discussed approaches to the 
qtjstion of urbanism primarily from a theoretical 
rspective. The aim of this chapter is to consider 
_„:thods which can be employed to investigate questions 
-of urbanism in pre-modern Palestine. The chapter will be 
divided into three parts. In the first part 1 will consider the 
Annates approach to history and archaeology and 
examine how it can be of use in the design of this thesis. 
In the second part I will discuss Central place theory and 
its role in analysing the distribution of urban centres. The 
final part of the chapter is concerned with specific 
archaeological techniques and methods, which can be 
used for investigating urban settlements. 

Part 1. Anodes Theory 

Whereas in pre-historic archaeology theory has become 

an integral part of the subject, in historic archaeology 

theory has only recently become important (see for 

example Funari et al eds. 1999). This is largely because 

the availability of written documents has meant that 

eological evidence can be\upplemented to produce 

a mochHtfoader view of a particular time and place 

without me neeo^ieMieoretical models. However this 

does not mean that archaeTJteg^ofVstoric periods can 

operate without a theoretical aSproaeh^- however 

rudimentary. For the purposes of\ this thesis the 

assessment of archaeological evidenceVill be based on 

the Annales approach. The suitability of this approach for 

historical period archaeology has been showt^by Bintliff 

who noted that in contrast with prehistoric arohaeology 

"the full gamut of Annates approaches may be employed 

in historical archaeology" (Bintliff, 1991,18). 

Before looking at the application of the Annates School to 
tfce specific question of urbanism in Palestine it is useful 
to give a brief review of this method of historical analysis 
and its application to archaeology. By way of 
introduction it is worth quoting 

taster and Ranum who provide a list of the principal 
aims of the Annates School; 

tl) a comparative and interdisciplinary approach to 
history that attempts to "mine" the social sciences in 
oder to fashion a "social history" in the widest sense of 
the term, (2) an effort to embrace the whole of human 
activity in a given society (histoire totale), and (3) a 
conscious rejection of narrative history and classical 
biography in favour of problem oriented history." 

traditional dynastic and biographical history as early as 
the late nineteenth century it was not until the early 
twentieth century that French historians such as Marc 
Bloch and Lucien Febvre had formulated a new approach 
to history. The Annates School could officially be said to 
have begun in 1929 with the foundation of the French 
journal Annates d'histoire iconomique et sociale (later 
renamed Annates. Economies, Socie'tis, Civilizations), 
The aims of the new approach could be summarised as a 
turning a way from political history towards a 
generalizing history based on economic and social history 
and an openness to intellectual ideas from other 
disciplines. The Annates School became dominant in 
France in 1949 with the publication of Ferdanand 
Braudel's monumental The Mediterranean and the 
Mediterranean World in the Age of Phillip II (Paris 
1949). This was soon established as the most famous 
work of the Annates .School although it was not translated 
into English until 1972). For many Braudels's name has 
become synonymous with the Annates School although 
his work does not encompass all the approaches followed 
by the School and should not be regarded as its only 
manifestation. Other notable propents of Annates history 
include Jacques Le Goff and Le Roy Ladurie whose 
detailed studies of French medieval life, Montailou 
(1978) and Carnival at Romans (1979), have become 

This is by no means a full definition of the Annates 
approach although it does give some idea of the type of 
work that may be counted as belonging to the Annates 

I Although there had been some dissatisfaction with 

famous beyond the confines of historical scholarship. 

The adoption of the Annales approach in the English 
speaking world can be dated to the 1970's after the 
translation of Braudel's work on the Mediterranean. For 
example in 1975 Forster and Ranum published selected 
articles from the Annales in order to explain the approach 
to American historians (Forster and Ranum 1977). 
Prominent examples of English language works in the 
Annales tradition include Walerstein's The Modern 
World System (New York 1974) and Chaudhuri's work 
on the Indian Ocean (Cambridge 1990). The attraction of 
this approach to archaeologists is obvious with its 
emphasis on diverse forms of historical evidence; indeed 
according to this approach "Archaeology is an absolutely 
integral part of history (Olivier and Coudart 1995, 364; 
see also Febvre 1938(1973)). Annales history is also 
suitable for archaeology because of its conscious 
rejection of narrative history which has so often made 
archaeological and historical evidence virtually 
incompatible (for example narrative history has tended to 
show that the Islamic conquests were a decisive, perhaps 
destructive phase in the history of the Middle East 
whereas archaeological evidence indicates considerable 

Despite its appeal the Annales paradigm was not adopted 
as part of Anglo-American archaeological theory until the 
lato 1980s although it remained integral to French 
archaeology (Olivier and Coudart 1995, 364). The early 
nineties saw the publication of two edited volumes The 

nnarew reiersen 

Annates School and Archaeology (Bind iff 1991) and 
Archaeology, Annates and Ethnohistory (Knapp 1992) 
examining the application of Annates theory to 
archaeology. Both books largely deal with examples from 
historic period archaeology because its application to 
prehistoric archaeology is more problematic (cf Bintliff 
1991, 18). 

Having briefly reviewed the history of the Annates 
School it is worth defining what is meant by the term and 
how it affects our approach to archaeology and history. 
Different writers have different views on what constitutes 
Annatiste history. For some the main feature of the 
Annates School is its method of structuring time into 
three wavelengths as exemplified by Braudel. Others, 
however, deny that the School has any particular ideas or 
structures suggesting instead that it has certain general 
characteristics. For example the Islamic historian Richard 
Bulliet believes that the school is characterised by the use 
of "innovative techniques, orientation towards solving 
problems, experimentation with intractable and non- 
traditional data, and great diversity in seeing that the 
human past can be reconstructed in myriad ways"( 1992). 

Although there is some debate as to what constitutes 
Annalist thought it is clear that certain concepts play a 
key role, these have been conveniently summarised by 
Bintliff (1992, 1-33) as follows: 1) time, 2) mentalMs 
and 3) problem history. 1) Probably the most well known 
aspect of Annates theory is its approach to time as 
elaborated by Braudel in his work on the Mediterranean. 
He divided time into three main frequencies i) long term, 
almost imperceptible, change (longue duree) ii) medium 
term changes (moyenne duree) and iii) short term 
changes (e've'nements). The first frequency involved long 
term phenomena such as geographical features, climate 
change, traditional technologies or ideologies. The 
second frequency, characterised as impersonal and 
collective forces which can be dated, includes phenomena 
such as agrarian cycles and socio-political systems. The 
third frequency operates at the level of individual human 
experience and includes events dealt with in traditional 
political and narrative history. There are a number of 
criticisms of Braudel's application of these frequencies 
although the concept itself has generally been praised. 
The suitability of this approach to archaeological research 
is clear where excavated material may not relate directly 
to the short-term history (e've'nements) but may have 
implications for medium (moyenne dure'e) or long-term 
(longue duree) changes. Indeed the relationship between 
documentary history recording specific events and 
historical archaeology could be seen as the relationship 
between the three wavelengths. 

2) The second concept derived from Annates 
methodology is that of mentality's or the study of 
ideologies and collective systems of belief. Although this 
is generally absent from Braudel's work (indeed he 
appears to deliberately ignore this in his work on the 
Mediterranean for example making no distinction 
between areas under Islam and those under Christianity) 

both Marc Bloch and LeFebvre saw this as an essential 
way to escape deterministic explanations of history. 

3) The third concept identified by Bintliff is the problem- 
oriented approach to history (histoire problime). 
Although this is found in Braudel's work it was 
developed by other French scholars notably Ladaurie and 
Blois. This approach starts with a problem or question 
and then seeks to answer it using a full array of historical 
data addressed at the three wavelengths. Thus a particular 
problem or immediate situation can he the result of long- 
term processes as well as very particular circumstances. 
The value of this approach is that it allows one to see the 
complexity of historical processes. 

So far the discussion has been focussed on the history and 
character of the Annates School and its potential 
application to archaeology. In the final part of this section 
I would like to consider its relevance to Islamic 
archaeology in general and the specific issue of Islamic 
urbanism in Palestine. Andrew Sherrat (1992,138) has-% 
criticised the Annates approach for its Eurocentrism that 
he sees as a replacement for nationalism which is out of 
fashion in post- World War II Europe. However, this may 
be a symptom of a more general neglect of historical 
research on non-western societies rather than a 
particularly narrow view of the Annates School. For 
example as early as 1969 the Annales journal published 
an article by Richard Bulliet on the disappearance of 
wheeled vehicles in the Middle East 1 . Sherrat himself 
also points out that one of the major works of the Annales 
school, Lombard's Etudes d'iconomie midiivale 
(Lombard 1971; 1974; 1978), is concerned with the 
Arab/Islamic world. Other Annales inspired work 
concerned with the Middle East and Islamic world 
includes Chaudhuri's two volume study of the Indian 
Ocean. In many ways Middle Eastern and Islamic history 
is particularly suited to the Annales approach with its 
range of historical sources (e.g. Geniza documents, 
biographical dictionaries) that differ markedly from the 
traditional western sources. The application of the 
Annates approach to Islamic archaeology has been more 
limited although there has been some interest most 
recently from Bulliet (1992) and Insoll (1999). By 
looking at pottery styles from Nishapur in North-East 
Iran Bulliet suggests that "the societal change that 
accompanied the progress of religious conversion in 
Khurassan appears to have gone beyond doctrine and 
affected the fabric of everyday social intercourse and 
popular taste". The influence of the Annates school on 
this work was summarised by Bulliet as the 
"simultaneous freedom to explore non-traditional 
sources... and encouragement to resort to theory*^ 1992). 
Insoll on the other hand interprets Annatiste methodology 
in a different way in his book The Archaeology of Islam 
(1999). He focuses primarily on Braudel's three wave 
lengths which he states "ideally suits what we are trying 
to explore here". 

1 Later expanded and published as a book Bulliet 1975. 


For the purposes of this thesis three Annates concepts 
identified by Bintliff will be used: Braudel's concept of 
time, the study of ideologies (mentalitis) and problem 
history. The concept of time operating at three 
wavelengths will be a useful way of dealing with the 
large span of time from the seventh to the sixteenth 
century (1000 years). In particular it may help with the 
problem of relating extended archaeological time spans to 
very specific events as described in historical sources. 

The study of mentalitis will be a useful way of dealing 
with the shift in belief systems from Christianity to Islam 
and also from the concept of Late Antiquity to medieval. 
Problem history, which most commentators agree to be a 
central feature of the Annales approach, will he the 
driving concept behind the work. The principal question 
is why the number of towns in Palestine declined from 
over forty in the Late Byzantine period to just six at the 
end of the sixteenth century. Other problems or questions 
include 1) what effect did the Crusades have on 
urbanisation? 2) Does Islamic urbanism in Palestine 
differ from other forms? 3) Does Mamluk urbanism differ 
from that of earlier periods? 4) Is the picture presented by 
archaeology the same as that presented through written 
historical records. 

Fart 2. Central Place Theory 

Any discussion of urbanism must consider Central Place 
theory. Even though its direct application in the current 
context is likely to be limited, the influence of the theory 
is considerable and shapes our perception of urban (and 
rural) relationships. The theory is primarily a product of 
urban geography and its significance for the subject can 
be gauged from the following statement * if it were not 
for the existence of central place theory, it would not be 
possible to be so emphatic about the existence of a 
theoretical geography... this author is of the opinion that 
the initial and growing beauty of central place theory is 
geography's finest intellectual product" (Bunge 1962, 
129 cited in Carter 1981, 139). During the seventies and 
early eighties geographers were less enthusiastic about 
the theory although the advent of G1S (Geographical 
Information Systems) has once more made it relevant. 

The theory has many roots although the invention is 
generally attributed to the German Walther Christaller 
who explained his theory in a book entitled Die zentralen 
One in Suddeutschland (Central Places in southern 
Germany) published in 1933. The book is divided into 
three sections, a theoretical part, a connecting part and a 
regional part. The last two sections are concerned with 
the practical application of the theory; the connecting part 
introduces methods of applying the theory and the 
regional part discusses the results of the work in southern 
Germany. Whilst the theoretical first part of the book has 
been hugely influential the two later sections have largely 
been disregarded as the methods of application were 
flawed (Carter 1981. 59). The aim of the theory was to 
answer a question which Christaller used as the title for 
his introduction "Are there laws which determine the 

The Towns of Palestine Under Muslim Rule 

number, distribution and size of townsr. In other words 
he wanted to establish a scientific, deductive method for 
analysing the distribution of towns. His theory was based 
on the assumption that the primary function of towns is to 
act as central places for the countryside, providing goods 
and services. Christaller made the significant observation 
that population size was irrelevant to a town's centraiity, 
in other words a town could be important because of the 
size of its population but without providing goods and 
services it was of no consequence (c.f. for example the 
difference between large villages and small towns). The 
theory was developed using two related propositions: 1) a 
population must reach a certain size before it can offer 
certain goods or services. Geographers currently refer to 
this as the threshold population; 2) there is a maximum 
distance people are prepared to travel for particular goods 
or services before either the travel becomes too expensive 
(eg. time, money and inconvenience) or an alternative 
nearer centre is available. 

From these premises Christaller worked out an ideal 
distribution based on an isotropic (flat, uniform) surface 
with an even population density and no variation in 
wealth or poverty. First he worked out a ranking of 
settlements determined by which goods or services they 
could offer based on the threshold population principle. 
He then calculated spacing based on the range of goods 
and services offered at each settlement. The pattern that 
emerges is of each town surrounded by six settlements of 
equal importance to itself, evenly spaced around a circle. 
Christaller had seven ranks of town with specified ranges 
of influence although as Carter (1981, 62-3) points out 
actual distances should not form part of a theoretical 
construct. The area around each town was called a 
complimentary region (zone of influence) and although 
described by a circle in practice its form is modified to a 
hexagon by the interaction with other complimentary 
regions. According to this model each town served its 
own area and an area equivalent to that of two other 
settlements of similar size. This arrangement was called a 
rule of threes and was expressed as a constant k= 3. 
Christaller also contemplated other spatial arrangements 
k= 4 and k = 7 each expressing a different form of 
relationship (See Fig. 3, 10 and 19 which use *=3). 

Christaller' s ideas were supported by the work of August 
Losch (1954) who first published his work Economics of 
Location in 1939. As indicated by his tide Losch was 
more interested in economic production than settlements 
although the results he arrived at using different methods 
were remarkably similar to those of Christaller. He 
extended the work of Christaller by demonstrating that 
there were more than three spatial arrangements available 
and extended the series of constants to increase market 

Whilst Ldsch's research re-enforced Christaller's theory 
other researchers produced work which posed serious 
problems the most significant of which were "Rank Size 
Rule" and "Primate City distribution". The Rank size rule 
was published in English by George Zipf in 1949 based 


Andrew Petersen 

on the ideas of Felix Auerbach first published in 1913 

(Auerbach 1913). According to this theory the population 

of a town multiplied by its rank was equal to the 

population of the largest city. From this rule, which was a 

product of empirical observation, there is no stepped 

ranking, instead there was a continuum from small to 

large settlements. This caused problems for Central Place 

theory which was dependant on distinct classes of 

settlement to make the structure work. The notion of the 

Primate City was formulated by Mark Jefferson in an 

article published in 1939. The principle idea of this 

theory is that "the largest city shall be super eminent and 

not merely in size but in national eminence" (Jefferson 

1939). This idea was based on observations of historical 

situations and naturally clashes with ideas of distribution 

and ranking of settlements implicit in Central Place 

theory. The two main problems are 1) that Central Place 

theory does not appear to take into account settlements of 

this type and 2) Central place theory is static and has no 

historical dimension. Observations of areas where the 

Primate City rule is evident have indicated that its effect 

is much stronger in early stages of urbanisation and 

becomes less as civilization becomes more complex. 

In addition to the theoretical problems posed by Zipf 
(1949) and Jefferson (1939) the theory also had serious 
practical problems. The most obvious of these was that 
the hexagonal lattices postulated by the theory had 
nowhere been convincingly identified. Other problems 
were; 1) that the theory had a strong deterministic 
element which is neither reflected in the behaviour of 
individuals nor in the historical process and 2) the model 
was solely economic ignoring other influential forces. 

Despite these problems Central Place theory is still one of 
the most widely used approaches to understanding 
settlement distribution. Its importance has been 
maintained because considerable effort has been spent 
trying to make it more accurate and relevant. Empirical 
studies which have been carried out using the theory have 
shown that problems of ranking settlements as identified 
by the size rank rule can generally be dealt with if an area 
is broken down into local areas where distinct ranks are 
visible. However the implication of this finding is that the 
results of any Central Place analysis are necessarily 
limited in their wider relevance. There have also been 
attempts to extend the use of the theory so that it has also 
been applied to intra- urban distribution. 

The above review of Central Place theory considers it 
mostly as a tool of urhan geography and as such mostly 
concerned with the present. Attempts to use the theory for 
historical studies have had limited success (Swanson 
1999, 24-5) although its use in archaeology is more 
widespread (see for example Dever 1998, 418). There are 
however special problems when applying this theory to 
the study of the past. One problem that has been alluded 
to above, concerns the fact that classical Central Place 
theory allows no room for evolution of settlement 
patterns and as such is a static system. One solution is to 
build the concept of evolution into the model SO that 

stages in the development of an area are generalized. This 
of course has its own problems and is subject to changing 
views of the past thus John Webb proposed a scheme 
which included the concept of the "isolated city" as one 
stage in the development of a system. The idea of the 
"isolated city" was based on the assertion that there was 
little interaction between urban centres in medieval 
Europe (Webb 1959, 56 and Carter 1981, 134). Such a 
proposition would today carry little weight so that the 
whole model would be flawed. There are, however, some 
more convincing models less dependant on specific data. 
For example Carter (1981, 136) proposes " a conceptual 
framework which summarises the various influences on 
the locational pattern". The framework is time based and 
postulates that two types of settlement develop, those 
dependant on specific locations and those which develop 
as a result of central place functions. This forms a system 
which may then be modified by "technological and 
organizational changes" and "minor exogenous 
influences". There are also examples of successful 
applications of central place theory to particular historical 
situations such as Chris Dyer's work on the small towns 
of central England during the Middle Ages (Dyer 1966). 
This region is ideally suited for the study because it has a 
fairly uniform geography and has no major cities such as 
London to distort the picture (in may ways the area 
resembles southern Germany used in Christaller's 
original formulation of the theory). 

Within this thesis Central Place Theory will be used to 
indicate the changing patterns of settlement from the 
Early Islamic period to the medieval period (Figs. 10 and 
19). Three changes are particularly notable 1) a decrease 
in the total number of towns, 2) a decrease in the number 
of ranks of town and 3) a spatial shift eastwards. 

Part 3. Archaeological Techniques 

The archaeology of towns in Palestine during the Islamic 
period is susceptible to the same range of techniques as 
those used for medieval urbanism in Europe although for 
a variety of reasons they are not always deployed. The 
reasons may be summarised as follows; 

1) Unlike much of Europe (particularly northern Europe) 
the quantity of material encountered during 
archaeological investigations is very large. In many 
cases this means that the available resources for 
studying material from a particular site is severely 

2) Because of Palestine's position in world culture 
interest in its archaeology has tended to focus on the 
older periods, particularly those associated with the 
Bible. The only post Classical period to attract 
significant attention is the time of the Crusades which 
again has a link to the wider European world. 

3) Like much of the Middle East Palestine has been 
subject to considerable political discontinuity (during 
the twentieth century certain parts of the country have 
been subject to successive Ottoman, British, Jordanian, 
Egyptian Israeli, and now Palestinian governments). 


The discontinuity has meant that archaeological policy 
has lacked the stable base which it needs to develop. 
4) Much of the archaeological field work in Palestine has 
been carried out by Israeli or foreign archaeological 
missions which, for reasons oudined in 2) above, have 
generally been more concerned about older (i.e. non- 
medieval) periods. 

Archaeological techniques may, for convenience, be 
divided into two broad categories based on their method 
of obtaining data, these are excavation and survey. Of 
course most techniques may be used in either situation 
though they are usually more common for one or the 
other (for example environmental information is normally 
associated with excavations). 

Surrey Techniques 

Surveys are generally cheaper, less time consuming and 
wo-destructive; however, their application to medieval 
sites in the Middle East is generally restricted to field- 
walking and architectural survey. The other more 
sophisticated techniques are less used either because they 
require equipment not easily available in the region or 
because they are not allowed for security reasons. 

Field walking is the most simple form of survey which 
has always formed a basic technique of Middle Eastern 
archaeology. However the application of field-walking to 
urban sites is often limited either where an urban site is 
still functioning or where it has been obscured by modern 
development. There are, however, some urban sites 
which are protected from modern development and where 
field walking has been successful. Prominent examples 
include the survey of Samarra in Iraq (Northedge 1985 
and 1993) and recent surveys of Merv in Turkmenistan 
(Herrmann et al 1996 and 1997). However in the majority 
of medieval urban sites the area available for surface 
survey is limited although there will usually be some 
areas where fragments of pottery, glass and other finds 
may be encountered. The problem here, of course, is in 
assessing to what extent the surface remains reflect what 
is buried beneath or whether the material is re-deposited 
fiom elsewhere for example the early Islamic city of 
Fustat became a rubbish dump for later medieval Cairo 
(this is particularly a problem in areas where mud-brick 
and pise" have been used and may incorporate sherds of 
pottery from elsewhere). In Palestine the number of 
medieval urban sites which are susceptible to surface 
survey are limited though it can be of use as an indication 
of continued use of an older site (for example in some of 
the Negev cities cf. Magness 2000). 

Architectural or building survey is one of the main 
techniques employed in Islamic archaeology and is a 
method particularly suited to urban sites. Most of the 
major medieval Muslim cities have been the subject of 
detailed architectural surveys and in some cases this has 
led to sophisticated analysis of urban form (see for 
example Roujon and Vilan (1997) who have analysed the 
Damascus suburb of Midan). In Palestine only Jerusalem 

The Towns of Palestine Under Muslim Rule 

and Gaza have been the subject of detailed architectural 
studies though there have been surveys of other towns 
such as Hebron, Safed and Nablus which are either 
incomplete or unpublished. In general such surveys tend 
to concentrate on buildings known either through 
documents or inscriptions and many of the anonymous 
domestic or industrial buildings remain unpublished 
giving a rather skewed impression of medieval 
architecture in Palestine. The other observation is that 
such surveys often approach buildings as architectural 
statements of a particular time rather than as buildings 
which have a cumulative history. 

Geophysical survey is a relatively new technique and its 
application to medieval sites in the Middle East is fairly 
limited (for a review of its use in the Mediterranean see 
Saris and Jones 2000). The principal technique used is 
magnetometry as this is relatively quick and therefore 
able to cover large areas relatively cheaply. Resisitivity is 
generally too slow and magnetic susceptibility is only 
concerned with indications in the topsoil. Ground 
penetrating radar may also have some applications for 
finding large features such as town walls although its 
weight make it cumbersome and expensive to use (Clark 
1996, 1 18-20). The use of geophysical survey on urban 
sites shares some of the limitations of field-walking 
discussed above as well as having some of its own 
limitations. In particular there is the problem that many 
urban sites are deeply stratified and most geophysical 
techniques are not capable of measuring features more 
than one metre below the ground surface. There is also 
the associated problem that the complex nature of many 
urban sites will not produce a readable pattern. Other 
problems include the fact that many urban sites are 
contaminated with modern highly magnetic material 
which will mask any readings from older remains. 
However geophysics has been useful in defining areas of 
ancient industrial use at sites such as Merv (Herrmann el 
al 1997, 17). The increasing sophistication of computers 
and refinements in prospection methods means that such 
techniques may have more value in the future. 

Topographic survey (the description or delineation of 
physical features of place or locality) on the other hand is 
a traditional technique in a archaeology and one that has 
been applied to most major sites in the Middle East since 
the nineteenth century. The application of topographic 
survey to urban sites which are still built up today has 
generally been more problematic. In general 
archaeologists are forced to rely on maps produced by 
other agencies where the refinement of contours or the 
delineation of ancient features may not have the degree of 
accuracy required. The recent development of surveying 
techniques using computerised Total Stations (EDM) and 
software has made detailed urban survey possible (see 
Ramla below). 

AJlied to topographic survey is remote survey using aerial 
photography and more recently satellite and shuttle 
images. Aerial photography was deployed in archaeology 
fairly soon after the First World War. Notable early aerial 


Andrew Petersen 

archaeologists include Antoine Poidebard (1934) who 
worked in Syria and Sir Auriel Stein who worked in 
Transjordan and Iraq (Kennedy 2000). More recendy the 
tradition has been continued by David Kennedy and the 
late Derrick Riley both of whom focused on Roman 
remains in Arabia and the Levant (Kennedy and Riley 
1990). Another approach to aerial archaeology has been 
to use photographs taken for other purposes (primarily 
military) for the interpretation of sites particularly where 
the landscape has changed since the photographs were 
taken. In Israel/Palestine Benjamin Kedar has made use 
of German First World War photographs for the 
identification of medieval sites (Kedar and Pringle 1985). 
The largest scale application of aerial photographs for an 
Islamic site has been for the mapping of the Samarra in 
Iraq where vertical RAF photographs have been used to 
map the ancient remains (Northedge 1989). With the 
development of GIS (Geographic Information Systems) 
aerial photographs can now be combined with other 
forms of information including geophysical and 
topographic surveys to produce detailed archaeological 
maps of sites (see discussion of Ramla). 

Excavation techniques 

Archaeological excavations have been carried out in 
Palestine since at least the nineteenth century though the 
techniques of excavation were either unsystematic or too 
large scale to produce results of use for later periods. In 
the twentieth century systematic methods of excavation 
developed the most notable of which is the box trench 
system devised by Mortimer Wheeler and refined by 
Dame Kathleen Kenyon. The principle aim of this 
technique was to record the stratigraphic sequence of a 
site (usually a tell site) in order to date particular cultural 
layers. This technique has continued to be the dominate 
method of archaeological excavation in Israel despite the 
fact that in most other places it has been superseded by 
open area excavation (see Plate 42 for Israeli excavation 
in progress). The obvious problems with the box trench 
system include I) large parts of the excavation area 
remain unexcavated 2) it is often difficult to follow 
features form one trench to another 3) the stratigraphic 
link between different trenches cannot be taken for 
granted. These factors become particularly problematic 
when dealing with medieval urban sites where the 
emphasis is to understand what happened during a 
particular phase rather than establishing a long 
stratigraphic sequence. Occasional y other techniques are 
used sometimes with spectacular success as in the 
excavations At Beth Shean (Baysan, Scythopolis) where 
the needs of employment and tourism combined to open 
large areas of the site for public display. 


The study of ceramics is one of the most studied aspects 
of Islamic archaeology yet there are still considerable 
problems both in dating and provenancing material. 
There are two main reasons for this situation; 

1) The first is that the study of Islamic pottery has been 
pioneered by historians of Islamic art rather than 
archaeologists, with a consequent emphasis on fine 
glazed ceramics to the detriment of coarse wares. 

2) The second reason is that when pottery from the 
Islamic periods is excavated it is usually part of an 
excavation which is primarily concerned with earlier 
material hence it has not received the attention which it 

The dating for pottery of the Islamic period is generally 
fairly imprecise and dating of a particular ware is within a 
range of fifty or a hundred years rather than tens of years 
for comparable material from the Roman period. Two 
periods cause particular problems, the first of these is the 
early Islamic period (seventh - ninth centuries) where a 
range of Byzantine (sixth - seventh century) types 
continue with little change. In the past this has led to 
problems in identifying sites with occupation after the 
Arab conquests. The problem is that Israeli archaeologists 
have based their dating on the ceramics of Khirbat al- 
Mafjar published by Baramki (1942) assuming that all the 
pottery from this site dates to the Umayyad period (i.e. 
before AD 750). However recendy Whitcomb (1989a) 
has shown that a much longer time span is represented by 
the pottery at Khirbat al-Mafjar and that many types 
thought to be characteristic of the early Islamic period in 
fact date to the mid-ninth century or later. Whitcomb's 
conclusions are supported by other archaeologists 
working in Jordan most notably Walmsley (2001) and are 
now largely recognized by Israeli archaeologists who 
have revised their dating. However this still leaves the 
problem that many excavations which took place in the 
past will have to be re-dated (cf. Magness 2000). 

The second area where there are considerable problems 
concerns the dating of hand made painted wares which 
have a date range from the twelfth to twentieth centuries. 
A number of attempts have been made to determine 
chronological groups though none have been particularly 
successful probably because of significant regional 
variations (for a recent discussion see Johns 1998). 

Beyond using pottery as a dating tool there is also the 
question of its value as a social and economic indicator. 
A few attempts have been made to relate it to social 
conditions the most notable of which is Bulliet's attempt 
to link glazed pottery styles with particular social groups 
in tenth century Khurassan (1991). More recently Marcus 
Milwright has attempted to link pottery styles with 
particular social groups in Mamluk Syria (Milwright 


After pottery glass is the most frequently encountered 
type of material found on Islamic sites. Technologically 
glass-making in the Islamic world preceded that of 
Western Europe, in particular in its development of 
glazes which were applied to pottery. Three distinct 
categories of object were made of jfassr ipwels. window 



of towns in Byzantine Palestine were 
_ of settlements that had existed in Roman 
before (see Fig. 6 for distribution map of 
c , 1978, 20). Thus there were no new cities 
i the Byzantine period though some villages 
to a civic status by becoming regional 
i centres (Patrich 1998, 474). 

of the Byzantine period will consider three 
which are important for an understanding of 
Lin the Islamic period these are; 1) the extent of 
2) the evidence for Arab culture in the 
the Islamic conquest 3) signs of decline and 

i distinguishing factor between the Muslim and 

j periods is in the role of Christianity as the state 

Under Byzantine rule the church had been a 

'.'influence on the development of towns. The 

i influence was expressed in three main ways: 1) 

: of Palestine as the Holy Land 2) the rise 

i and monasticism 3) the role of the church as a 

f building. 

Holy Land 

i of Christianity as the official religion of the 

: changed the status of Palestine from an obscure 

i to a Holy Land. This was made clear soon after 

_ Constantine ordered the destruction of the 

of Venus and the construction of a Christian 

(Church of the Holy Sepulchre) on the site 

and Taylor 1994, 73; Eusebius Vita Const. Ill, 

jmgo 1978, 15-6). Also at this time Constantine's 

made a pilgrimage to Palestine and founded a 

: of churches. Eusebius himself contributed to the 

i by compiling the Onomasticon that is a list of 

■ad their Biblical associations. Pilgrimage soon 

an established practice amongst the Byzantine 

_ _„• in the late fourth century (Hunt 1972, 312-460). 

i practice continued in the fifth century and by the 

century it appears to have been a major industry 

{ from the number of pilgrimage tokens found (see 

Vikan 1982). Averil Cameron summarised 

tion as follows, 'In this period one might say that 

was booming, whether to Holy places 

•Jves, or to the shrines of saints or holy men...' 


i growth of pilgrimage to Palestine obviously had an 
: on the economic and physical development of its 
The importance of Jerusalem for example was 
.1 to the extent that in the mid fifth century a new 
_ ('Eudocia's wall) was added extending the city to 
I south (Reich, Avni and Winter 1999, 138). A century 

later in 543 the emperor Justinian built the Nea (New) 
Church, dedicated to Mary Mother of God. This was a 
massive ecclesiastical complex of a size and splendour 
appropriate to the city that was at the heart of the 
Christian religion. Other Palestinian cities and towns 
were also included in this growth for example the city of 
Gaza was provided with a cathedral by the Empress 
Eudocia in 406 (Mango 1978, 16) and in the sixth century 
the celebrated church of St. Sergius was built (Hamilton 
1930). Outside the cities shrines were established at 
places of Biblical importance and thus assumed an urban 
character for example Bethlehem was provided with 
walls by Justinian c. AD 531 (Procopius De Aedificus 
v.9.12; Prag 2000, 179-80) despite the fact that the 
church was not the seat of a bishop (Pringle 1993, 1 38). 

2. Monks and Monasteries 

A similar process can be identified in the development of 
monasteries in the Judean desert. These have recently 
been systematically documented by Y. Hirschfeld (1990; 
1992a; see also Patrich 1994) who recorded at least 64 
monasteries (twice the number previously known). He 
notes that monasticism in the area reached its peak in the 
sixth and early seventh centuries. John Binns (1999) has 
argued that the proliferation of monasteries (both 
coenobium and the laura) in the area which together were 
capable of housing 3000 monks amounted to a process of 
urbanisation. This was significantly different from 
monasticism in Egypt as exemplified by the monastery of 
St. Anthony where monks were consciously escaping the 
life of the city. In Palestine it is notable that the Judean 
monasteries were located near cities such as Jerusalem 
and Jericho. According to Binns "It seems... that the 
growth of the Palestinian monasteries cannot be 
understood only as an ascetic flight from the world, 
although we are left in no doubt that the monks loved the 
wilderness and emptiness of the desert, it was also a 
process by which new cities were built" (Binns 1999, 29). 
As support for this idea Binns notes that Sabas was given 
the title archimandrites, a title which has quasi-episcopal 
meaning, at a time when bishops always exercised 
authority over a city 1 . In this context Sabas title and 
authority over the desert monasteries "confirms the 
impression that the monasteries were seen as together 
constituting a city" (Binns 1994, 175-77; Binns 1999, 
30). Binns further suggests that one of the reasons for 
locating the monasteries in the Judean desert area was 
part of an imperial policy of settling frontier areas 
"Thus... Sabas was participating in the process of 
building up the Empire by colonising areas which had 
previously been left unoccupied " (1999, 29). A parallel 
development was the growth of cities/towns in the Negev 
which will be discussed further below. 

1 This was not always the case in Africa some agricultural estates had 



The majority of towns in Byzantine Palestine were 
continuations of settlements that had existed in Roman 
times and before (see Fig. 6 for distribution map of 
towns) (Mango 1978, 20). Thus there were no new cities 
Ltei from the Byzantine period though some villages 
were raised to a civic status by becoming regional 
administrative centres (Patrich 1998, 474). 

This review of the Byzantine period will consider three 
ooettions which are important for an understanding ol 
Ssm in the Islamic period these are; 1) the extent of 
church influence 2) the evidence for Arab culture m the 
area before the Islamic conquest 3) signs of decline and 

The Church 

The main distinguishing factor between the Muslim and 
Byzantine periods is in the role of Christianity as thestate 
roMon. Under Byzantine rule the church had been a 
mak,, influence on the development of towns. The 
churches influence was expressed in three main £jj«)] 
the development of Palestine as the Holy Land 2) the rise 
f monks and monasticism 3) the role of the church as a 
patron of building. 

L Palestine as Holy Und 

The adoption of Christianity as the official religion of the 
Empire changed the status of Palestine from an obscure 
Zince to a Holy Land. This was made clear soon after 
324 when Constantine ordered the destruction of the 
Temple of Venus and the construction of a Christian 
bSca (Church of the Holy Sepulchre) on the site 
(Gibson and Taylor 1994, 73; Eusebius Vita Const 111, 
34-9; Mango 1978, 15-6). Also at this tune Constantme s 
mother made a pilgrimage to Palestine and I founded la 
number of churches. Eusebius himself contributed to the 
process by compiling the Onomastkon that is a list of 
rites and their Biblical associations. Pilgrimage soon 
became an established practice amongst the Byzantine 
Sy in the late fourth century (Hunt 1972, 312-460) 
The practice continued in the fifth century and by the 
sixth century it appears to have been a major industry 
judging from the number of pilgrimage tokens found (see 
IbTewunple Vikan 1982). Averil Cameron summarised 
the situation as follows, 'In this period one might say that 
pUgrunage was booming, whether to Holy places 
Stmselves, or to the shrines of saints or holy men... 

The growth of pilgrimage to Palestine obviously had an 
effect on the economic and physical developmen of its 
cities The importance of Jerusalem for example was 
UKteased to the extent that in the mid fifth century a new 
«11 ('Eudocia's wall) was added extending the city to 
the south (Reich, Avni and Winter 1*9*. 138). A ceuuuy 

later in 543 the emperor Justinian built the Nea (New) 
Church, dedicated to Mary Mother of God. This was a 
massive ecclesiastical complex of a size and splendour 
appropriate to the city that was at the heart .of the 
Christian religion. Other Palestinian cities and towns 
were also included in this growth for example the city ot 
Gaza was provided with a cathedral by the Empress 
Eudocia ,n 406 (Mango 1978, 16) and in the ^cemury 
the celebrated church of St. Sergius was built ^arndfcm 
1930) Outside the cities shrines were established at 
places of Biblical importance and thus assumed an urban 
character for example Bethlehem was Pouted J"h 
walls by Justinian c. AD 531 (Procopius De Aedtficus 
v.9.12; Prag 2000, 179-80) despite the fact _tha ^the 
church was not the seat of a bishop (Pnngle 1993, 1 38). 

2. Monks and Monasteries 

A similar process can be identified in the development of 
monasteries in the Judean desert. These have *ec*jfij, 
been systematically documented by Y. ■£**£"* 
1992a; see also Patrich 1994) who recorded at least 64 
monasteries (twice the number previously known). He 
notes that monasticism in the area reached itt i peak m die 
sixth and early seventh centuries. John Burns (\999y has 
araued that the proliferation of monasteries (both 
rLobium and the laura) in the area which together were 
capable of housing 3000 monks amounted to a process of 
urbanisation. This was significantly different from 
monasticism in Egypt as exemplified by the monastery of 
St Anthony where monks were consciously escaping the 
life of the city. In Palestine it is notable that the Judean 
monasteries were located near cities such as Jerusalem 
and Jericho. According to Binns "It seems... that the 
growth of the Palestinian monasteries cannot be 
understood only as an ascetic flight from the world 
although we are left in no doubt that the monks loved the 
wilderness and emptiness of the desert >t was also a 
process by which new cities were built" (Binns 1999, 29). 
As support for this idea Binns notes that Sabas was given 
the title archimandrites, a title which has quasi-episcopal 
meaning, at a time when bishops always exercised 
authority over a city'. In this context Sabas title and 
authority over the desert monasteries confirms the 
impression that the monasteries were seen as togedier 
coLituting a city" (Binns 1994, 175-77; Binns 1999 
30) Binns further suggests that one of the reasons for 
locating the monasteries in the Judean desert area was 
part of an imperial policy of settling frontier areas 
'Thus... Sabas was participating in the process ot 
building up the Empire by colonising areas which had 
previously been left unoccupied " (1999, 29). A parallel 
development was the growth of cities/towns in the Negev 
which will be discussed further below. 

> ThU wa» not aiv^y, .h* *** in Africa some agricultural had 


Andrew Petersen 

3. He Church M a patron of baikiing 

One of the characteristics of the Byzantine period is the 

involvement of the church in all aspects of public life. 

Bishops were the main representatives of the church and 

as Averil Cameron has observed " As time went on 

bishops became more, not less, important." (Cameron 

1993, 63). One of the ways in which the increasing role 

of bishops in civic life can be documented is their 

appearance in building inscriptions.. A recent study of 

these inscriptions by Di Segni has shown how the 

proportion of religious to secular buildings changed over 

four and a half centuries between AD 350 and AD 800. 

During the fourth century only a few churches were built 

and during the fifth century they begin to feature 

prominently and from the reign of Justinian (527-565) 

onwards they outnumber civil building inscriptions. The 

total for the whole period for the area of modem 

Israel/Palestine (Di Segni 1999, 160 Tables 2A-B) is 57 

churches (not including 5 synagogues) and 22 civil 

buildings (i.e. nearly 3:1). When the whole area of 

Israel/Palestine, Jordan and Provincia Arabia is 

considered (Di Segni 1999, 163 Table 5) the proportion 

alters slightly with 112 churches and 55 civil buildings 

(i.e. roughly 1 :2) though the general pattern of more 

churches than civil buildings holds true for the whole area 

(Di Segni 1999, 159-165). It should perhaps be pointed 

out that Di Segni's survey only refers to Latin and Greek 

inscriptions so that from the time of the Islamic conquest 

634 to 800 churches are virtually the only buildings 

documented because other public works are 

commemorated by Arabic inscriptions. 

The increasing numbers of inscriptions relating to 
churches is much as one might expect as Christianity 
became more established in the empire. What is 
remarkable is the number of inscriptions from secular 
buildings which indicate the increasing involvement of 
the church. For example the archimandrite St. Sabas 
made a request to the emperor to build a fort in the desert 
which was subsequently built at a cost of 1,000 soldi (Di 
Segni 1999; Cyril of Scythopolis ed. Shwartz 72-3). A 
similar interest in fortification was shown by Bishop 
Marcianus of Gaza in the early sixth century (before 536) 
when he instigated the rebuilding of the city walls (Di 
Segni 1999, 154; Glucker 1987, 140-1). More direct 
involvement in the construction of public buildings can 
be seen in the establishment of a network of inns and 
hostels (^evkove^. Examples in cities include the two 
hostels attached to the Nea Church in Jerusalem one for 
pilgrims and the other which functioned as a type of 
hospital. It appears that many of the inns outside cities 
were located near a fort or other military camp which Di 
Segni has taken to be evidence for "the increasing 
involvement of the church in all aspects of life, especially 
in the smaller cities and the villages" (1999, 154). Within 
the cities the church was involved in the construction of a 
variety of secular buildings. The church's interest in bath- 
houses can be seen in the construction of a public bath in 
Jerash by Bishop Placcus in 454/5. Other examples 
include the restoration of a bath-house in Scythopolis 

(Beth Shean/Bavsan) by Bishop Theed** in 558/9 and 
the restoration of the thermae at Hammat Cadet which 
was dedicated to saint Elijah (Di Segni 1999,56). Other 
public buildings erected under the authority of the church 
include the stoas erected by Bishop Marcianus of Gaza 
(Di Segni 1999, 157; Choricius edd. Foesteer & 
Richtsteig) and a colonnaded street at Sepphoris. The 
involvement of Bishop Eutropius in the building of the 
colonnade at Sepphoris is recorded in a recently 
discovered mosaic pavement (Di Segni 1999, 157; Netzer 
and Weis 1999). More surprising perhaps is the church's 
involvement in the construction of a gaol for prisoners 
awaiting execution (Di Segni 1999,158) 

The increasing role of the church in public life, 
particularly from the sixth century, has important 
implications for the period after the Islamic conquest. 
Although churches clearly continued to function and were 
repaired and even founded after the Arab conquest the 
Church's official role in the state was obviously at en 

Arabs Prior to the Muslim Conquest 

The influence of the Arabs in the area before the Muslim 

conquests has received increasing attention in recent 
years and is of significance when assessing the nature of 
the change from Byzantine rule. 

This research may be divided into three main strands; the 

first is an increased interest in Roman Arabia (see for 
example Bowerstock 1983 and more recently 
Lozachmeur ed. 1995), the second is an examination of 
the role of Arabs in the Byzantine army (e.g. Shahid 
1995, Whitlow 1999) and the third is concerned with 
elements of continuity from the Byzantine to the early 
Islamic period (e.g. Pentz 1992). Much of this new 
research has been fuelled by archaeological investigations 
that have added much to the difficult documentary 

Before considering the role of the Arabs in the region 
prior to the Islamic conquests it is worth defining the 
term Arab. For some it is an ethnic term and for others it 
applies only to those engaged in pastoral nomadism. The 
meaning of the term is subject to change depending on 
the period and the point of view of the person using the 
term. In the present context one may use the term to mean 
"those who see themselves and are seen by others as 
participating members of Arab culture" (Whittow 1999, 
219). This meaning is particularly appropriate because it 
emphasises the sentiments of belonging to a particular 
society rather than the economic occupation or style of 

1. Arabs in the Byzantine Army 

Perhaps the most intensively studied area of research is 
the military role of the Arabs in the late Roman/ 
Byzantine state. This field has been dominated by ihe 
work of Irfan Shahid that has highlighted the role of the 


The Towns of Palestine Under Muslim Rule 

Christian Arab tribes, in particular the Ghassanids, in 
defending the Byzantine empire against the Persians. 
Shahid has argued that Greek historians, in particular 
Procopius, played down the significant role of the Arabs 
because of their adherence to Monophytisrn and because 
they were regarded as barbarians. Shahid's views have 
drawn criticism from a number of scholars most notably 
Whitby who states "The lack of information in Greek 
historians about Arab affairs in the late sixth and seventh 
centuries accurately reflects their lack of importance in 
contemporary wars and diplomacy" (Whitby 1992, 80). 
While Shahid's historical interpretations of the role of the 
Arabs in the Persian wars may appear to be stretched in 
places the role of the Arabs in the Roman and Byzantine 
military is not disputed (see for example Kaegi 1 992, 52- 
56). Their role in the Byzantine military may be divided 
into two main categories. In the first category are Arabs 
who served in the Byzantine army either as individuals or 
as part of an ethnically defined unit. In the second 
category are Arab tribes that functioned as clients of the 
Byzantines, usually operating beyond the borders of the 

There are examples of Arabs serving in the Roman army 
from as early as the second century when Nabateans were 
incorporated into the Roman Army as cohortes I -VI 
Petraeorum with a compliment of 4,000-5,000 men 
(Kennedy 1999, 76-106). In the late fourth century Arabs 
served in the Byzantine army as locally recruited camel 
riders listed in the Notitia Dignitatum Orientis as equites 
sagittarii indiginae (Isaac 1995 145-149). Although such 
units were fully part of the Byzantine army their terms of 
service appear to have been different from other soldiers. 
Thus it appears that they lived in houses with their 
families rather than in barracks and they served in their 
local areas (Isaac 1995, 145-6). It is known that these 
units continued to function to the end of the sixth century 
(at least 590 AD) though their fate after that date is 
unknown. The Persian wars and occupation certainly 
imposed a strain on resources and after the Byzantine re- 
conquest in 629 the size of the army was probably 
reduced. Kaegi has suggested that in Palestine on the eve 
of the Muslim conquest the Byzantine army consisted of 
2-300 troops based at Caesarea and elsewhere "Small 
garrisons, composed of Byzantine but in effect long 
assimilated indigenous [Arab] troops, many of whom 
probably carried on some other occupation as well, 
existed probably of 100 or less to 200 soldiers, at sites on 
both sides of the Dead Sea and Jordan river" (1992, 41). 
It is also likely that there were garrisons in other towns 
with detachments of 100-500 troops. 

It is generally accepted that the reduced size of the 
Byzantine army in Syria and Palestine during the seventh 
century meant that more reliance was being placed on the 
friendly Arab tribes or foederati. John Haldon has 
summarised the situation as follows "By the third decade 
of the seventh century they [Arab federate or allied 
troops] were... by far the most important element in the 
forces at the disposal ot the duces of Palestine, Arabia, 
Phoenice and Syria" (1995b, 416). Of these the 

Ghassanids (or more correctly the Jamids cf. Whitlow 
1999, 213-3) with their last king Jabala b. al-Ayham were 
leaders of a confederation of Arab tribes supporting the 
Byzantines (see also Kaegi 1992, 53). Other Arab tribes 
friendly to the Byzantines were the B.lrasha and al- 
Quda'a sections of the Bali tribe, Judham,Lakhm, B. al- 
Qayn and B. Kalb (Kaegi 1992, 68 n.4). The Arab tribes 
were based at a number of camps throughout Syria and 
Palestine the most important of which were Gaza, Jabiya 
in the Golan, Emesa, Damascus, Qinnasrin and Aleppo. 

The significance of the Arab presence in the Byzantine 
forces is considerable. The most obvious was that the 
Arab defenders of Byzantium had much in common with 
the invading Muslim Arabs. This fact was not lost on the 
Muslims who had a policy of inducing Arabs loyal to the 
Byzantines to change sides although in some cases it also 
worked the other way (Kaegi 1992, 272). However more 
important in the long term is the cultural continuity from 
the Arab presence in the Byzantine armies to the early 
Muslim conquerors. This continuity may be expressed in 
a number of ways for example in the continued use of 
camps such as the Ghassanid hira at Jabiya or perhaps the 
Arab Byzantine camp at Gaza (cf. Northedge 1994 and 
Haldon 1995b 414-9). The importance of these camps for 
the subsequent development of Islamic urbanism in 
Palestine is considerable and will be discussed in greater 
detail below (Chapter 4). Whitlow has also suggested that 
the Ghassanids/Jafhids acted as a political model for the 
Umayyads to consolidate their power in Syria (1999, 
224). Certainly the presence of Arabs in Syria/Palestine 
in Byzantine times meant that after the Muslim conquests 
the Arabs were dispersed throughout the countryside 
unlike Egypt and Iraq where they were "huddled together 
in garrison cities to maintain their tribal isolation along 
the edge of settled land" (Crone 1980,29). 

2. Non-Military Arab Settlement 

First it should be stated here that the distinction between 

military and civilian settlement is problematic especially 
when military camps include accommodation for tribal 
families (see for example the description of the camp at 
Nessana in Isaac 1995, 146). However service in the 
Byzantine army, or as a client of the Byzantine state, does 
not explain the presence of all the Arabs settled in the 
region. Some of the Arabs were pastoral nomads using 
the area as part of their seasonal migrations, some were 
involved in long distance trade and some were sedentary 
engaged in various forms of settled agriculture. The 
dividing lines between these different forms of existence 
were not always clear cut, thus sedentary Arabs might 
spend a certain part of the year in tents whilst Arabs 
involved in long distance trade might also take part in 
military activity or live as pastoral nomads for much of 
the time. There is, however, one fairly clear distinction 
between Arab groups, that is between Arabs who keep 
sheep and goats and those who herded camels. Those 
with camels are able to travel more freely as they are no 
so dependant on watei and can eApluii muic arid terrain. 

Andrew Petersen 

In the sixth and earty seventh century there is evidence of 
significant Arab migration to the area of Syria 
accompanied by a process of sedentarizarjon (Haldon 
1995, 416). There are two areas in particular where there 
is evidence of considerable Arab occupation in this 
period these are; the Hauran region (occupying the north 
of modern Jordan and the southern part of modem Syria) 
and the Negev in modem Israel. Both of these areas have 
been the subject of intensive archaeological surveys and 
excavations that have indicated considerable settlement in 
the sixth and seventh centuries indeed the maximum 
before modem times. 

The Hauran is an area that has a long history of Arab 
urbanization beginning with the development of the site 
of Bostra by the Nabateans in the first century AD 
(Bowerstock 1983). During the Roman period Bostra 
developed into the economic capital of the province of 
Arabia. In the Byzantine period a number of new 
settlements developed or older settlements were enlarged 
by Arab immigration. 

The most well known of these settlements is Umm al- 
Jimal located 10 kilometres west of Mafraq in north 
Jordan. As the buildings are made of basalt there is a 
remarkable degree of preservation which has enabled 
them to be studied in great detail (De Vries ed. 1998; 
Butler 1919). Some idea of the nature of the site in the 
late Byzantine period can be gathered from the fact that it 
had fifteen churches and between 4-500 inscriptions in 
five languages (Kennedy 1999 101; De Vries 1998)- The 
centre of the Byzantine town was a Roman fort 
established in c. 300 AD. The majority of the buildings 
have the lay-out of Arab courtyard houses familiar from 
later periods indicating the Arab nature of the settlement 
(cf Pentz 1992, Fig 5). Other similar settlements include 
Umm al-Quttein, Umm al-Surab, Rihab and Khirbet al 
Samra. Each of these expanded in the Byzantine period 
and had numerous churches especially when compared 
with the relatively small size (Kennedy 1999, 101). 

In addition to these small towns with their identifiable 
Arab character Kennedy has argued that many of the 
larger Hellenistic cities also had a considerable 
Arab/native culture. The Arab character of these cities 
was ensured by the fact that "even the improved cities of 
the Roman period will have remained death traps, 
continually replenished by a drift of excess population 
from the rural areas in general but the more marginal 
areas in particular". In particular Kennedy notes that the 
cities of the Decapolis "are likely to have been 
replenished more by the steppe and deserts to the east 
than from arable lands to south and west"(Kennedy 1999, 

Urban Decline? 

One of the most contentious issues in the history of 
Palestine in particular, and Syria in general is the 
condition of die region on the eve of the Arab conquest. 
The traditional view, based mostly on a combination of 

the writings of Christian priests and European prejudices, 
sees the Arab conquest as a catastrophic end to die 
prosperity of the Byzantine era. As recently as 1992 
Moshe Gill wrote about the Arab conquest in the 
following terms: 

"... one can assume that the local population suffered 
immensely in the course of the war and it is very likely 
that many villages were destroyed and uprooted in the 
frontier regions and that die lot of these local populations 
was very bitter indeed. It appears that the period of the 
Arab conquest was also that of the destruction of the 
synagogues and churches of the Byzantine era, remnants 
of which have been unearthed in our own time and are 
still being discovered". (1992, 75) 

Although the facts of this statement, relating to 
archaeological remains, have been shown to be 
unfounded (in particular see Schick 1995) the idea of a 
destructive invasion continues to occupy the minds of 
non-specialists (see for example Jeremy Johns 2001, 16). 
This view sees the Arab conquest as the final victory of 
the nomads in a millennia old conflict between the settled 
people of the Fertile Crescent and the nomads of the 
desert (cf Ibn Khaldun's model of nomads and city 
dwellers in North Africa). The settled people of the 
Mediterranean littoral are characterized as civilized 
people who were either Europeans themselves or had 
adopted European (i.e. Hellenistic/Roman) customs. The 
nomads on the other hand are regarded as uncivilized 
barbarians intent on looting the towns and villages of the 
settled people. Whilst there are some elements of truth in 
this view, the overall picture is now generally rejected in 
favour of a more complex analysis that emphasises the 
reciprocity between the groups (cf Pentz 1992, 12). In 
particular modem interpretations no longer see two 
opposed groups but a range of groups from foreign city 
based elites to camel herding nomads. Lancaster (pers 
comm. 1992) has made die observation that belonging to 
a nomad group is not predetermined by ethnic origin but 
is a choice taken at a personal or family level. 

Methodological Problems 

One of the problems assessing whether the area was 
subject to decline in the years before the Muslim 

conquest is deciding how this can be demonstrated 

arc Ideologically. 

Measuring decline or otherwise through archaeology may 
appear to be straight-forward, particularly where 
abandonment of sites or regions is involved. However 
abandonment can be a complex process depending on the 
type of sites being studied (for a full discussion of this 
issue see Cameron and Tomka eds.1993). For example a 
site may cease functioning as a permanent settlement yet 
still be important as a temporary camp for seasonal 
activities. Other dangers inherent in assessing decline 
include judgement on such issues as the division of a 
house into a greater number of rooms or the 
encroachment of private dwellings or shops on public 


,Jhe Towns of Palestine Under Muslim Rule 

apace. Our pre-conceptions may lead us to see the 
division of rooms in a large house as a sign of decline 
tough evidence form our own times should warn us that 
tMs could also be a sign of increasing prosperity signified 
by increasing demand on space. Similarly the 
encroachment on public space may be seen as an 
adication of decline though it may also indicate more 
flourishing trade. In some cases the evidence may appear 
to be ambiguous. 

A related problem is deciding whether decline should be 
Measured in economic or demographic terms or some 
combination of the two. Although it is generally assumed 
AM tore is a connection between economic conditions 
ad the population in a given area the relationship need 
MX be a simple one. For example Give Foss (1997, 204) 
ttgfestcd that the population in parts of northern Syria 
lBnauhed high despite a decline in wealth thus he writes " 
Tbe villages.... were not abandoned at all after the sixth 
oratory, nor did their population decline drastically for a 
long time. Rather it appears that they continued to be 
occupied but became increasingly poor and more 

Set against this view of decline there is archaeological 
evidence that indicates increased settlement before, 
daring and after the Muslim conquests particularly in 
■elation to the Negev Highlands. A similar situation 
applies to settlements in the Hauran which appear to have 
been flourishing at this time. Although these areas may 
lave been exceptions to a wider situation they 
demonstrate that the situation varied widely over different 
areas and different levels of settlement. For example in 
Syria there appears to have been a decline in urban life 
whilst tbe village hinterlands remained relatively 

If one favours the view that there was a significant 
decline before the Muslim conquests there are differing 
views on the causes of this change. The views may be 
divided into schools, those seeing the decline as a result 
of natural disasters and those who attribute the decline to 
human agency in particular the war with the Sasanians. 

Natural Disasters 

If the Muslim conquests are not regarded as the direct 
cause of a decline or change then the period of transition 
must be dated either later or earlier. One school of 
thought identifies a period of decline in the sixth; century 
thus Kennedy (1985a) states ' the transition from antique 
to medieval Syria occurred in the years after 540 not after 
640'. According to Kennedy (1985b) the symptoms of 
this change are the transformation from open colonnaded 
streets to narrow winding alleys, a change in the size of 
bath-houses and the disappearance of theatres. Although 
he sees this change as a gradual transformation with 
many causes he sees the plague of 540 as a decisive 
factor which led to serious and sustained falls in 
population* (Kennedy 1985b 18: see also Conrad 1986). 
However this view has recently been challenged by 

amongst others Pentz (1992) and Foss (1997). Pentz 
compares the situation in sixth century Syria with the 
region of Jilan (Iran) where a plague in 1876-77 reduced 
the population by a quarter. Although the plague was 
certainly destructive in human terms Pentz draws 
attention to the fact 'the plague had almost no effect on 
the economy of Gilan' (Pentz 1992, 66, citing Seyf 
1989). Foss on the other hand doubts that the 
demographic effects of the plague were decisive as an 
agent of long term change citing as evidence the fact that 
there is no evidence of widespread population decline. 
Further Foss (1997, 260) states the archaeology *._.. 
shows that much of this country was still prospering in 
the late sixth century'. Although there are counter 
arguments to both Pentz and Foss f their general premise, 
that there is not enough evidence to suggest that the 
plague caused a decline in the cities, appears to be 
plausible. The same arguments apply when considering 
other natural phenomena such as earthquakes, famines 
and climate change. Without precise and conclusive 
evidence these occurrences cannot be given as causes for 
the decline of the Late antique town. 

Persian Wars 

If natural events are excluded as causes for decline one is 
inevitably left with human or social causes. Tbe most 
notable event in the area before the Muslim conquest is of 
course the Persian invasion and occupation from 614-28. 
The effects of this event were two-fold, first there were 
the direct consequences of the invasion which may have 
had some impact on the economy and population of they 
area. Secondly there were the indirect consequences 
associated with the prolonged conflict with the Sassanian 
empire which led up to the eventual occupation empire. 

Most writers agree that the direct effects of the Sasanian 
occupation were limited compared with the longer term 
consequences of the Persian wars. Nevertheless the 
Persian occupation was a reality, which must have had 
some influence on the areas subjected. Certainly there is 
historical evidence that Anatolia suffered dire 
consequences form the Persian invasion which is 
corroborated by archaeological evidence (Foss 1975). 
Christian historians of Egypt give a similarly negative 
impression of the Persian occupation although the 
archaeological evidence to support this has not been 
assessed (Severus ibn al-Muqaffa ed. Evens 1907, 485). 
The evidence for Syria and Palestine is mixed with some 
historical accounts recording huge numbers of casualties 
and destruction whilst the archaeological evidence 
contains very little that can be directly linked with this 
period (for Syria see Foss 1997, 224 and 252. Referring 
to Apamea he states 'unfortunately the excavations have 
identified no specific evidence for the Persian period; 
only one coin from the Console House, certainly 

2 Pentz's suggestion that the plague may have bad no economic effect 
can be compared with the economic consequences of the Black Death in 
medieval Europe. Foss's arguments for the plague having a reduced 
effect is based on evidence which has, by his own admission, very 
serious gaps. 

Andrew Petersen 

r epre sen t s this time' p.224). The best recent evaluation of 
Palestine during this period is that given by Robert 
Schick (1995, 2048) who assesses both the historical and 
the archaeological evidence. At least in the initial phases 
of the occupation (i.e. up until 617 when the Sasanians 
altered their policy in favour of the Christians and against 
the Jews) the Jews are known to have assisted the 
Persians and may have been responsible for the 
destruction of some churches in Galilee in the vicinity of 
Acre (Schick 1995, 28-9). There is also some evidence 
for increased Bedouin attacks at this time though these 
appear to have been more opportunistic than part of a 
specific policy. The Persians themselves appear to have 
inflicted little damage on the towns and cities with the 
exception of Jerusalem where historical accounts relate 
mass killings. There is some support for this in the 
archaeological record thus outside the walls the 
monastery of St George at Givat Ram was burned as was 
the church of Gethsemane (Schick 1995,34:340: 352-3) 
whilst inside the city the New Church of Theotokos and 
the church of Probatica were destroyed (Schick 1995:34: 
332-3: 333-5). Apart from the damage to churches there 
is no widespread archaeological evidence for destruction 
of the city at this time (Magness 1992) though historical 
sources relate more to the killing of people than the 
destruction of property (Connybeare 1910, 514-5: Schick 
1995, 38). In concluding his assessment of the period of 
the Persian occupation Schick warns against 
underestimating its effects despite the rather sparse 
archaeological evidence thus he states; 

"Even while one must be careful not to exaggerate the 
impact of the Sasanian invasion and occupation, their 
effects were undoubtedly serious, both materially and 
psychologically. The Christian population suffered heavy 
blows, and the brief period of Byzantine restoration that 
followed was not long enough for their recovery to be 

Although the period of Persian occupation was relatively 
short (only fourteen years) and is unlikely to have had 
much effect on the material culture of Syria/Palestine the 
wars which had preceded it lasted (intermittently) for 
more than a hundred years. The fighting during the sixth 
century was generally confined to western Mesopotamia 
(although occasionally it spilled over into Syria) and did 
not have much direct physical impact on the area of 
Syria/Palestine. However the conflict affected the area in 
other ways (eg increased taxation, billeting of troops, 
administrative arrangements and interruption to trade) 
which is likely to have had economic consequences. In a 
recent article Benjamin Isaac (1995,126-9) argued that 
the Byzantines did not consider the financial cost of the 
war with Persia, this meant that the costs of the conflict 
probably escalated particularly with the payment of 
subsidies to neighbouring peoples. There is, however, 
some debate as to whether warfare is good for an 
economy stimulating the industry and trade of a state 
rather than draining its resources. The limited information 
we have for sixth and early seventh century Syria makes 
it difficult to assess whether the overall economic effects 

of the Persian wars would have been positive or negative 
though it is likely that it would have caused a certain 
amount of wealth re-distribution with the Arab clients of 
the Byzantines (and the Sasanian clients such as the 
Lakhmakids) receiving large subsidies. This in turn may 
have had its effects on urban development and certainly 
contributed to the development of towns such as Umm al- 
Jimal and Bostra (see above 3.2 Arabs prior to the 
Muslim Conquest) perhaps at the expense of more 
Hellenised cities. Another effect of the warfare was the 
increased tax burden which may have led to a 
deterioration of the public architecture in the cities 
because any spare money would have been used for the 
war effort, either for payment of troops or in the 
construction of fortifications. The heavy tax burden may 
also have increased emigration of the curiales to the 
countryside where financial burdens may have; been less 
(Cameron 1993,168-9). In this context it is instructive to 
note that from the seventh century the Byzantine Empire 
began to shift the burden of taxation away from the cities 
(Haldon 1990, 132: Haldon 1995a, 18 n.32). This action 
was possibly a recognition of the growing tendency for 
the rich (curiales) to retire to country estates. 


From this review of Byzantine Palestine a few 
observations can be made which have relevance to the 
transition to Arab Muslim rule. The first is that, in view 
of the role of the church in urban institutions. Any decline 
in the power of the church is likely to have had a 
significant effect on the condition of towns. The fact that 
in many cases (eg Baysan/Scythoplis) the transition to 
Muslim rule seems to have had little immediate effect on 
the physical condition of the towns indicates a concern on 
the part of the new rulers to maintain the urban 

The second point is that 'Arabicization' in the Byzantine 
period appears to have preceded Islamicization after the 
Muslim conquests. This factor may help to explain why 
the transition appears to be a gradual process rather than 
the catastrophic end of civilization presented by some 
contemporary Christian writers (for examples sec Crone 
and Cook 1977, 155-6). 

The third point is that there is no simple correlation 
between urban decline and the Arab/ Muslim conquests. 
Although there may be occasional examples of 
destruction as a result of the conquests in the majority of 
cases examples of decline can be traced both before and 
after the conquests. 




The Muslim conquest of Palestine took place over a 
period of six years from the first invasion in 634 to the 
occupation of Caesarea in 640 AD (Fig. 7, Plate 31) (for 
a detailed account of the conquest see Kaegi 1992). There 
b bo evidence of towns having being damaged during the 
conquest even though battles were fought in the near 
vicinity. Occasionally, as in the case of Aqaba (Ayla), the 
chy surrendered before the arrival of the Muslim armies. 
Other cities surrendered and agreed terms when 
confronted by Arab Muslim forces. Apparently the treaty 
agreed between the Muslims and Tiberias was fairly 
typical and granted the inhabitants the safety of their 
lives, possessions, children, churches and houses, with 
ihe exception of what they evacuate and abandon, setting 
wide a special spot for the mosque (al-Baladhuri ed de 
Goeje, 116). 

In return the inhabitants were expected to hand over a 
proportion of their crops and pay a dinar for each of their 

In some cases the treaty terms appear to have been even 
more favourable to the conquered people, thus al-Tabari 
records the terms of Lydda's surrender 1 according to 
which the inhabitants of the city were offered the 
protection of the caliph 'Umar who guaranteed their 
freedom of worship and the safely of their possessions 
(al-Tabari ed. Guidi, 1 , 2406-7 and trans. Friedman 1992, 
191-2). In the particular case of Lydda it can be seen that 
it was in the caliphs interest to ensure as much continuity 
as possible as this was ihe main economic centre of 
Palestine. During this period the population of Lydda and 
other towns was pre-dominantly Christian and the 
number of Muslims appears to have been fairly small. In 
these circumstances the new rulers were dependant on 
their Christian (and Jewish) subjects for their economic 
power and their administrative skills. 

The only city where there is evidence of prolonged 
conflict is Caesarea which was finally taken in 640 AD 
after a prolonged siege. The historical sources provide 

1 Text of Lydda treaty as recorded by Tabari (ed. Uuidi 2406-7 trans. 
Friedman, 1992. 192): 

*h the name of God. the Merciful, the Compassionate. This is what the 
servant of God, "Umar, the Commander of the Faithful, awarded to the 
people of Lydda and to all the people of Palestine who are in the same 
cMtgory. He gave them an assurance of safety for themselves, for their 
property, their churches their crosses, their sick and their healthy, and 
all their rites. Their churches will not be inhabited [by the Muslims! and 
will not be destroyed. Neither their churches, nor Ihe land where ihey 
stand, nor their rituals, nor their crosses, nor their property will be 
damaged. They will not be forcibly converted, and none of them will be 
harmed. The people of Lydda and those of the people of Palestine who 
are in the same category must pay the poll tax like the people of 
Palestine who are in the same category must pay the poll tax of the 
Syrian cities. The same conditions, in their entirety, apply to them if 
mey leave jLydda].' 

mixed accounts of the occupation for example the 
Christian writer John Nikiu wrote of the 'horrors 
committed in the city of Caesarea in Palestine' (Nikiu 
cited in Schick 1995, 278) whilst the Muslim historian al- 
Baladhuri simply refers to the capture of prisoners (ed. de 
Goeje, 142). 

The treaties of surrender also provide evidence that some 
inhabitants were leaving their towns rather than 
submitting to the new rulers 2 . For example a clause in the 
Tiberias treaty states that abandoned or evacuated land 
and possessions were exempted form the general security 
of tenure. It is probable that the majority of the evacuees 
were those enrolled in the Byzantine army rather than 
ordinary civilians (Whitcomb 1994, 15-16) 

In general the conquerors appear to have aimed for 
minimal disturbance of the cities probably in realization 
that their wealth was dependant on the continuity of 
economic life within the cities. Schick points out that the 
majority of horror stories which relate to the conquest are 
from Christian sources and are of doubtful validity 
(Schick 1995, 83-4). 

In the years immediately following the conquest there is 
little historical (or archaeological) evidence for the 
condition of the towns and cities though it appears that 
they gradually adapted to the new conditions. It is not 
clear how many people converted to Islam during this 
lime as the incentives, such as exemption from the poll 
tax, may have been outweighed other factors such as the 
requirement to pay an alms tax (Schick 1995, 169; 
Dennet 1950). In this connection it is worth noting that 
converting to Islam did not exempt people from paying 
land tax though they were exempted if they left the 
countryside for the city. In this case one would expect to 
see a growth of urban Muslim communities at the 
expense of rural Christian communities- Unfortunately 
the evidence to test this theory is almost entirely lacking 
both in archaeological and historical sources. 

During the Umayyad period there is little historical 
evidence for the condition of the cities though there are a 
few events which are likely to have had a significant 

The first of these is the conflict between Ibn al-Zubayr 
and the Umayyads in the 680s which allowed the 
Byzantines to capture coastal cities including Ascalon 
and Caesarea. Later on during the 740s Ihere were a 
series of rebellions against the caliph Yazid II and 
Marwan II which led to attacks on Tiberias. Heliopolis 

2 See for example the treaty of surrender of Jerusalem which stales 
'those of the people of Jerusalem who want to leave with the 
Byzantines, take their property, and abandon their churches and their 
crosses will be safe until they reach their place of safety' (Tabari ed. 
Cuidi, I, 3-106, trans Friedman IOQ7, 101.?) 


Andrew Petersen 

(Ba'albak), Damascus and Jerusalem. The final 
destructive event of the Umayyad period is the 
earthqualce of 749 which had a ruinous effect on 
Scythopolis, Pella and presumably other town in the 
north of Palestine. In contrast to these destructive events 
Umayyad rule initiated a series of prestigious urban 
building projects including the construction of the Dome 
of the Rock in Jerusalem and the foundation of the new 
cityofRamla 3 . 

The Abbasid revolution appears to have had little direct 
impact on Palestine as the major events took place further 
east. The only significant incident relating to the change 
in the dynasties is the killing of seventy members of the 
Umayyad family at Nahr Abi Futrus (probably Antipatris 
see Tabari ed. Guidi, III. 47 also Gil 1992. 101). However 
a longer lasting impact of the fall of the Umayyads is that 
Syria in general and Palestine in particular became much 
further removed from the centre of caliphal power. Under 
the Umayyads southern Syria had been an area favoured 
by the caliphs as testified by their luxurious palatial 
residences (examples within Palestine include Khirbat al- 
Minya, Khirbat al-Mafjar Fig. 14 and Plates 3 and 4). 
During the Abbasid period political, and building activity 
seems to have been centred on Iraq, in particular the 
newly constructed capital of Baghdad followed in the 
ninth century by Samarra (see for example Wheatley 
2001, 112-3). Against this general view of the stagnation 
of western Syria a few notes of caution should be 
expressed. The first point is that the historical sources 
may be misleading, thus the construction of the al- 
'Anaziyya cisterns by Harun al-Rashid in Ramla (Plates 
39-41) is entirely omitted from any historical accounts 
which instead concentrate on political events. The second 
point is mat the archaeological evidence may be 
contaminated by knowledge of the historical sources. For 
example until recently very few Abbasid sites were 
recognized in Jordan and Palestine as the end of 
Umayyad rule was considered to be a cut-off point for 
material culture just as it was for politics. However recent 
work has shown that, as one might reasonably expect, 
there was considerable continuity, for example red-on- 
cream ware appears to have been produced after 750 AD 
even though it was previously thought^ to be a 
distinctively Umayyad ware (Walmsley 2001) 

However from the early tenth century there are signs of 
increasing political instability in Palestine with control of 
the country contested between the Tulunids, Qaramatis, 
Ikhshids, Fatimids, Bedouin and Turcomans. Despite this 
political fragmentation the economy appears to have been 
reasonably healthy as indicated by letters from the Cairo 
Geniza (see Gil 1992, 279-482). By 1030 AD after sixty 

1 According ro M.A. Shaban Walid I was particularly interested in 
improving conditions in towns and writes 'Walid therefore applied 
some of the treasury's immense wealth to the improvement of urban 
conditions. In fact all of this money was spent in towns' (Shaban 1971, 1 

. 118). 

4 A similar situation applies in reverse in Iraq where Umayyad remains 
were not identified until recently see for example Hnster and Schmidt 
1976 esp. 57-151. 

years of almost continuous warfare the Fatimids 
established undisputed control over the country. However 
the prosperity of the country was interrupted by a series 
of earthquakes in 1033, 1068 and 1070 which devastated 
Ramla the provincial capital. 

Administrative Divisions 

The administrative divisions of the early Islamic period 
generally followed the Byzantine pattern although with a 
few significant changes (Fig.ll). The Byzantine Palastina 
II became the Jund al-Urdunn although part of the 
neighbouring province of Phonecia Maritima was added 
so that the province had access to the Mediterranean 
coast. Palestina I and Palestina in became part of a single 
province, the Jund Filastin. There has been some 
disagreement about the origin of the Arabic ajnad as they 
do not correspond exactly with the previous division into 
civil provinces. Irfan Shahid (1994) has argued that the 
division into ajnad (s.jund) reflects an earlier Byzantine 
division into themes which took place after the Persian 
invasion of the early seventh century (this view is 
followed by a number of scholars examining towns in the 
early Islamic period most notably Whitcomb (1994, 20- 
22). However John Haldon convincingly argues that the 
new divisions reflect 'the pre-existing pattern of military 
commands under the various duces' rather than themes 
for which he believes there is no evidence at this time 
(Haldon 1995b, 420). Whatever the origin of the early 
Islamic administrative divisions they appear to have 
remained the same until at least the end of the tenth 
century (they are first recorded by ibn Khurradadhbih in 
the mid-ninth century (Schick 1995, 148)). Each jund 
was in turn divided into districts each with a capital. It is 
not clear how long these divisions persisted though the 
political fragmentation of the late tenth century must have 
made them impractical before they were finally 
extinguished by the Crusader conquest. 

Forms of Urban Settlement 

The above historical summary indicates that the Muslim 
conquerors were not interested in radically altering the 
existing urban order. Nevertheless the pattern of urban 
settlement altered significantly during the first five 
centuries of Muslim rule. Whether these changes were 
primarily a result of the supremacy of Islam or would 
have taken place anyway will not be considered in this 
part of the discussion though it should be pointed out that 
Europe experienced equally great changes during this 
period. Regardless of the causes of the changes Islam 
certainly exercised some influence over the development 
of towns in this period. The changes affected both the 
internal layout of cities and the wider urban network. In 
the next section I will examine three forms of urban 
settlement under the Muslims: the first is continuity of 
occupation with no change of site; the second is the 
creation of an adjacent settlement and the third is a 

completely new settlement 5 . These forms are not 

I tpchuive and are used for convenience thus it is possible 

|m some sites will be discussed under more than one 

If* 8 - 

! Settlement (Intra Mural Settlement) 

l^ majority of towns in Palestine appear to have 

eetscued functioning after the Muslim conquests. Where 

settlement has ceased to function the problem for an 

Ideologist is in assigning a date to its abandonment 

| ascertaining the causes of the failure. Until recently 

i tended to regard all the classical cities as fully 

r ^.jij before the Arab invasions and assigned all 

■ban failures to the period immediately after the 
._ Whilst such a simplistic view is no longer 
it does help to explain how the idea of urban 
t became synonymous with the advent of Islam. 

■ recent times there has been a greater willingness to see 

Itfba decline as a factor independent of the Muslim 

I ^inquests. For example Hugh Kennedy's work on Syria 

lit teen signs of urban decline in the early sixth century 

■ -0jmmy 1985). On the other hand archaeologists 

working in Jordan and Israel/Palestine now regard urban 

feftae as an event which occurred primarily after the 

^ktghth century (i.e. with the fall of the Umayyads). 

I two views are not incompatible and indicate that 

decline occurred in different places at different 

. probably as a result of a number of factors. 

Whether Islam was one of the factors which led to the 

itcSne of the classical city is a moot point, though if it 

-was, it was certainly not the only factor. 

Regardless of the general causes of urban decline Islam 
■doubtedly had a major and increasing impact on the 
appearance of cities of Palestine. However the 
archaeological evidence is hard to asses, partly because 
*« material culture of early Islam had not developed 
jiy characteristic features at this early date and because 
_> majority of the population is likely to have remained 
Christian for a considerable time. As an example of the 
fat point it may be noted that the coinage of Syria 
remained essentially Byzantine in form until the reforms 
of die caliph 'Abd al-Malik thirty years after the initial 
conquest. Support for the second point may be found in 
Schick's work which demonstrates the continued 
importance of the Christian communities of Palestine in 
(be Umayyad and early Abbasid periods (Schick 1995). 
Note should also be made of the fact that a significant 
proportion of the population, particularly in Galilee, 
remained Jewish as is demonstrated by Dothan's 
excavations of a synagogue of the early Islamic period at 
Hammath Tiberias (Dothan and Johnson 2000). 

Despite the difficulties mentioned above there is some 

5 The* divisions are similar to those adopted by Whitcomb (1994) in 
«U study of Syrian cities though slightly adapted- Thus the choice of 
winch city fits into which category is also slightly different in my 

archaeological evidence for the impact of the Muslim rule 
on cities. Examples from Syria include Palmyra, Hims, 
Damascus and Rusafa. At Palmyra there is considerable 
evidence of Umayyad activity such as the recently 
discovered Umayyad suq (As' ad and Stepniowski 1989)- 
Archaeologists have also shown that the temple of Bel 
was used as a mosque following its use as a church. 
Bacharach (1996, 31) suggests that this was a 
congregational mosque with a Dar al-lmara to the south 
suggesting that a new specifically Muslim layout was 
imposed on the centre of the city. A similar situation may 
have existed at Hims where the central part of the city 
may have been rebuilt on a different (qibla?) alignment 
from the rest of the classical city (Whitcomb 1994, lo- 
ll). Damascus provides another example where the small 
mosque of the early Islamic period was replaced by a 
much larger edifice, which together with the dar al- 
■imara (Palace of Mu 'awiyya) to the south became the 
new urban centre. At Rusafa the situation is slightly 
different with the majority of Umayyad buildings 
constructed outside the Byzantine walled city (Otto-Dom 
1957). However in the centre of the city a congregational 
mosque was established by Hisham to the north of the 
church of St.Sergius (Sack 1991). Bacharach (1996, 30) 
postulates that because of its position to the south of the 
Friday mosque the church was later converted into the 
Dar al-imara. 

The above examples from Syria indicate how the centres 
of pre-Islamic towns could be transformed into a 
specifically Muslim form. Unfortunately the evidence 
from Palestine is, with a few exceptions, more difficult to 
interpret. There are a number of reasons for this situation 
which may be placed into three main groups. In the first 
place the number of early mosques discovered in urban 
contexts is limited and the size of these mosques is 
generally small (see for example Schick 1995, 140-1 
Table Six which includes only three towns, Jerusalem, 
Bet Shean, Shivta and Ramla with archaeological 
evidence for mosques). Secondly archaeologists working 
in the area have generally not been interested in finding 
evidence of the early Islamic period (see for example the 
discussion of Sepphoris in the Catalogue). Thirdly there 
are a number of towns such as Nablus, Gaza and Hebron 
where archaeological excavations have been extremely 
limited due to the military occupations of the twentieth 

In this situation it will be useful to start with the best 
documented examples and afterwards consider those for 
which there is less evidence. The best known example is, 
of course, Jerusalem where the combination of the Dome 
of the Rock, the Aqsa mosque and the Umayyad palace 
mark a significant Muslim presence in the city (Fig.13) 
(see for example Rosen-Aylalon 1989). 

At Baysan (Hb. Bet Shean) there was a small mosque 
which formed part of a walled housing complex on the 
hill (Tel al-Husn) overlooking the city centre (Fig. 40). 
The size of the mosque is small and it was evidently not a 
Congregational mosque for the city but rather it was 


Andrew Petersen 

intended for a small community of Muslims (troops?) 
resident on the tell. The mosque and associated streets are 
built over a church of the Byzantine period. The date 
when the church was abandoned is not clear (certainly 
pre-ninth century) though it was probably before the 
Muslim conquest. There was also another small mosque 
in the city centre below Tel! al-Husn which has been 
dated to the Abbas id period (i.e post 749 earthquake). 
Neither of these two mosques can be classified as 
congregational mosques indicating either that the Muslim 
population of the city was extremely small or that there 
was another mosque which has yet to be located. One 
possibility is that the mosque known as Jami'al-Arbain 
which was still in use in the late Ottoman period was 
built as a congregational mosque in the early ninth 
century (Fig. 40 No.16 and Plate 16). If this is the case it 
provides some support for the idea that the main area of 
settlement shifted from the valley to the plateau above. 
Whilst the dating of the three mosques is in need of 
greater precision it can be seen that the arrangement of 
congregational mosque and Dar ai- 'imara which is seen 
at other sites in Syria and at Jerusalem does not appear to 
have been foflowed here. There may be a number of 
reasons for this though the fact that the city was replaced 
by Tiberias as regional capital may be significant. 

However the identification of a Muslim presence in a city 
need not be confined to the presence of a mosque. The 
most striking example of the Muslim presence in Baysan 
is the recently excavated monumental gateway to the suq 
which was decorated with a glass mosaic inscription of 
the shakada dated to the reign of the Umayyad caliph 
Hisham (Fig. 41)(Khamis 2001). 

At the other end of the urban scale from the large city of 
Baysan is the small town of 'Isbaita located in the 
northern Negev. Here the impact of Islam on the urban 
design appears to have been limited to the construction of 
a small mosque adjoining the baptistery of one of the 
three churches (Fig. 34 and Plates 11-14). 

In most of the other urban centres where continuity of 
occupation can be observed there is no archaeological 
evidence of a mosque although there may be literary 
evidence. In these cases there are often other signs of 
urban development which may be detected arch- 
aeologically. For example in Caesarea a new quarter 
based on a grid plan was established in the eighth century 
which continued in use, with some modifications, for 350 
years. Similarly a new street pattern appears to have been 
built in Arsuf in the Umayyad period. Both of these 
towns also had walls which were established in the early 
Islamic period (in both cases the walls enclosed an area 
smaller than that of the Byzantine period though 
significantly Islamic occupation was nut confined within 
the walls). 

However not all of the Byzantine period cities continued 
to flourish during the whole of the early Islamic period. 
For example there is very little evidence that either 
Sepphoris or Dor flourished beyond the first years of the 

Umayyad period (it should be pointed out that significant 
evidence for the Byzantine period at both sites has only 
recently been discovered and it is therefore not unlikely 
that more substantial evidence of Islamic period 
occupation may be discovered in the future). Similarly 
most of the Negev settlements appear to have dwindled 
by the end of the Umayyad period (though this may be 
subject to revision). 

Adjacent Settlement (Extra Mural Settlement) 

Although the majority of towns and cities continued to 
exist on the same site after the Islamic conquest with few 
alterations to the urban plan there are other cases where a 
new settlement was built adjacent to the earlier pre- 
Islamic settlement One of the clearest examples of 
adjacent settlement in the medieval Muslim world is the 
city of Merv in Khurassan (present day Turkmenistan). 
The pre-Islamic city (Gyaur Kala) continued to function 
during the early years of Muslim rule and in the tenth 
century another city of equal size (Sultan Kala) was built 
next to it which then became the main city. In turn this 
site was also superseded when a third city was built 
alongside in the fourteenth century (Fig. 23 and Plate 7) 
(see Herrmann and Petersen 1997). A better known 
example is the city of al-Rafiqa (Raqqa) which was built 
by the Abbasids as a suburb of the Roman-Byzantine city 
of Nicephorium and later became the main city (Creswell 
1989,243-8 and 271-5). This phenomenon is not of 
course unique to the islamic world one of the best known 
examples in Britain is the foundation of Salisbury near to 
the site of Sarum in the twelfth century. 

Adjacent settlement can take a number of forms, 
depending on the reasons for locating outside the limits 
of an existing city. One of the most obvious forms is the 
suburb (rabad), which may be a walled or un-walled 
extension of the city to accommodate population growth. 
A more specific form of growth is where the 
administrative functions are moved outside die old city to 
signify the arrival of a new type of rule. It is this pattern 
of settlement which Whitcomb (1994) identifies as 
typical of the early Islamic period at sites such as Tiberias 
and Aqaba. An appropriate analogy may be the addition 
of European quarters to pre-existing towns in colonial 
India (eg New Delhi). 

The evidence for a new Islamic period settlement outside 
the classical/Byzantine city is best documented at 
Aqaba/Ayla (Figs. 30 and 31). The new settlement has a 
plan typical of many of the Umayyad qusur (palaces) 
(hough its four gates characterise it as a madina (city). 
Despite its self-contained appearance this new setdement 
was evidently intended to complement the existing city 
rather than replace it. A similar situation may have 
existed at Tiberias where Harrison has suggested that a 
misr (camp) was built at the northern end of the 
Byzantine city (Fig. 42). If Harrison is correct the new 
settlement at Tiberias may have been built to serve the 
additional administrative needs acquired when die city 
became capital of the jund (Harrison 1992). 


The Towns of Palestine Under Muslim Rule 

There are two other examples of adjacent settlement in 
early Islamic Palestine both of which seem to be a 
response to a particular need rather than part of an 
irapcria! policy. The first of these, Capernaum, has 
recently been identified by Whitcomb (1994, 24-5) who 
shows that after a period of abandonment in the seventh 
century a new Umayyad settlement was built next to the 
Bomd Byzantine site. The difference between 
Qperoaum and either Aqaba or Tiberias is that the earlier 
rat at Capernaum appears to have ceased to exist 
i the new town was built (there is also the question 
I whether Capernaum should be considered an urban site 
i vji thii period). The second case of adjacent settlement 
) IMopted for a specific local need is Haifa. According to 
lawiflli century sources there were two towns, old Haifa 
ad new Haifa The New Town appears to have been a 
fortified settlement established by the Fatimids in the 
etewnth century (for a discussion of the evidence for 
New Haifa see Pringle 1998, n, 150-2). 

Haw Towns 

I' New towns in Syria in general and Palestine in particular 
IN rare in the early Islamic period. In fact the only new 
town founded by the Arabs in Palestine before the 
eleventh century was Ramla. In contrast to this situation a 
■aa b ftf of new towns were founded by the Arabs in Iraq, 
and North Africa. 

According to Donner (1981, 148) the reason for the 
acarcity of new foundations in Syria was that 'the 
Muslims in Syria seem to have preferred to reside in 
established towns*. A more detailed explanation provided 
by Nortbedge suggests that the reasons for preferring the 
established towns was that many of these already 
possessed accommodation which had previously housed 
Byzantine troops (1994). Another reason is that the 
Muslim Arabs may have had cultural contacts with towns 
before the conquest and so regarded them as desirable 
places to live. 

Ibc new towns founded by the Arabs may be divided into 
three main categories: amsar or camp towns, palatial 
towns and new civilian settlements. These categories are 
not exclusive and, as will be shown, often overlapped 
with each other. However the significance of this 
categorization is to demonstrate that that the agency for 
urbanization in the early Islamic period was not from a 
single source. The issue is complicated by the fact that 
different dynasties (eg Umayyad, Abbasid and Fatimid) 
adopted different approaches to the foundation of new 
towns though in general the divisions suggested above 
remain valid. 


Amsar is a collective term (sing misr) for military camps 
or garrison cities. Because the majority of early Islamic 
settlements began their life as misr the term has become 
synonymous with urban settlement in the early Muslim 
period (see for example Northedge 1994, 231 and 

Whitcomb 1994, 13), however as will be shown below 
this was not necessarily the case. 

The first amsar were the twin towns of Basra and Kufa 
founded in Iraq during the first part of the seventh 
century (see Fig. 16). These were both built next to pre- 
existing towns and therefore also qualify as adjacent 
settlements 6 . However it should also be pointed out that 
both towns stood at a distance of several miles from the 
earlier settlements and were clearly new towns rather 
than relocation of old settlements. The urban plan of both 
these amsar has been discussed in detail by a number of 
scholars because of their implications for later Islamic 
urban development. However for the present only a few 
features need be noted. Firstly the towns were intended 
primarily as settlements for Arab tribes taking part in the 
expansion of the Muslim world and were divided into 
tribal quarters. Secondly neither of the towns was 
enclosed within a wall but they were simply surrounded 
by ditches to mark the edges of their respective 
settlements. Thirdly most of the buildings would have 
been of a temporary nature (e.g. tents or huts). Fourthly it 
appears that both towns had been demilitarised by the 
mid-Umayyad period (cf Northedge 1994, 232). A further 
Iraqi misr was founded at Wash in the early eighth 
century by al-Hajjaj the Umayyad governor in Iraq. This 
was partly a measure to control the urban populations of 
Basra and Kufa and perhaps also a way of housing the 
Syrian army which could not be maintained in Syria (cf. 
Kennedy 1995, 374). Other early amsar include Fustat in 
Egypt, Barqa and Qayarawan in North Africa (later 
examples include Ajdabiyya). 

The only possible case of a misr in or near Palestine is the 
military camp of labiyya in the Jaulan. Although this 
settlement had pre-Islamic origins as a Ghassanid centre 
its role as a regional tribal centre during the first years of 
Muslim occupation make it analogous with other amsar. 
Unfortunately there has been no archaeological 
investigation of the site, which unlike the other examples 
cited above does not appear to have developed into a 
truly urban settlement (J.Sourdel Thoumine EI?,). 
Another possible misr is the camp at Emmaus-Nicopolis 
which briefly functioned as a regional capital in 638 AD 
until it was devastated by plague. Unfortunately the 
archaeological information so far available from the site 
is not useful in determining the nature of the early 
Muslim settlement (Vincent and Abel 1932). 

Towns centred on Palaces 

The relationship between palatial complexes and urban 
settlement has been recognised by both Northedge (1994, 
241) and Whitcomb (1994, 19). The best known example 
is Qasr al-Hayr al-Sharqi which is a remote site in the 
Syrian steppe/desert comprising a greater and lesser 

6 Basra was founded near the settlement of a)-Khurayba and Kufa was 
founded near the pre-existing town of al-Hira. For the foundation of 
Basra see Tabari (ed, Guidi 2377-89 and trans. Friedman 1992, 161- 
172). For the foundation of Kufa see Tabari < ed.Guidi 1 : 2487-88) and 
Djait 1986. 


Andrew Petersen 

enclosure and a number of ancillary buildings. The 
importance of this site is that an inscription found in 1807 
specifically refers to it as a madina built by the people of 
Hims in 110 AH/728-9 AD (Clermont-Ganneau 1888- 
1924, 3 285-93; Grabar et al 1978). The size of the site 
and its remote location clearly indicate that it was 
intended as a new urban foundation though the fact that it 
was abandoned by the end of the Abbasid period means 
that its role in the development of Islamic urbanisation is 
generally underplayed. 

Of course the most spectacular example of palace centred 
urban foundation is the massive city of Samarra founded 
by the Abbasid caliph al-Mu'tasim in the early ninth 
century. The city is essentially a number of large palaces 
with areas in between accommodating housing for the 
troops and their families (see Northedge 1985 and 1993). 
Other examples of urban development with a palace at 
the core may include the palace at Ukhaidhir in Iraq (Bell 
1914) and Madinat al-Far in Syria. Unfortunately 
archaeological examination of the area around Ukhadhir 
has been limited though it is evident that there was 
substantial extramural development which was 
contemporary with the palace 7 . The case of Madinat al- 
Far is better documented both through archaeology and 
historical texts. The site, which is located on the Balikh 
river in Syria, comprises a walled settlement and a palace 
and has been identified by its excavator as Hisn Maslama 
the residence of the Umayyad general Maslama ibn Abd 
al-Malik (Haase 1996). Another possible Syrian example 
is Jabal Says located in the Hauran north-east of Bosra. 
The site comprises a central palace, a bathhouse, a 
mosque and several large houses surrounded by other 
buildings of unknown function (Sauvaget 1939; Brisch 
1963 and 1965). Although these are the essential 
elements for an urban settlement Northedge (1994, 241) 
suspects that they might not be contemporary thus the 
inhabited area at any one time may have been smaller 
than is indicated by the plan of the remains. However it is 
equally possible that there were further structures of less 
durable material whose remains were not detected in the 

Further west in modern Lebanon the city of 'Anjar is 
another example of a city dominated by palatial 
architecture (Fig. 15 and Plate 2). Unfortunately neither 
the date nor the patron of this city is known with any 
certainty although Bacharach (1996, 34-5) has recently 
suggested that it was built by Abbas son of the caliph al- 
Walid 1 (reigned 705-15) probably in 714 AD. The 
relationship of 'Anjar with Ramla will be discussed in 
more detail below. 

Within the province of Urdunn 'Amman presents the best 
example of a palace centred development. Though, of 
course, the city had existed before the Muslim conquest 
the re-development under the Umayyads was based 

around the palatial complex on the citadel. In addition to 
the palace with its famous audience hall there was a 
network of streets with houses and other buildings. This 
urban development was separate from the city below 
which had its own Friday Mosque (Northedge 1992). 

The most likely candidate for a palace centred urban 
development in Palestine is the site of Khirbat al-Mafjar 
near Jericho in the Jordan valley (Fig 14, Plates 3 and 4). 
The size of the palace complex has recently been shown 
to be larger than previously thought with a large service 
complex discovered to the North of the palace and 
bathhouse excavated by Hamilton (1959) 8 . It is possible 
that further parts of the complex remain unexcavated 
inviting comparison with other early Islamic urban sites 
(e.g. Anjar). Unfortunately little is known of the 
surrounding archaeological context in particular the 
neighbouring town of Jericho at this period which would 
help us understand the role of Khirbat al-Mafjar. 

The other well known Umayyad palace in Palestine is 
Khirbat al-Minya. The palace itself is fairly small (67 x 
73m) and no other complexes have yet been located in 
the immediate vicinity. However its location at the north 
west of the Sea of Galilee near a major crossing point of 
the river Jordan it an ideal location for an urban 
development and it is notable that the site became a 
market centre in medieval and Ottoman times (Cohen and 
Lewis 1978,57,58,67 165. 167). 

Another candidate for a palace centred urban 
development in Palestine is Ramla because according to 
al-Baladhuri the first construction on the site was 
Sulayman's palace followed by the House of the Dyers 
(Dar al-Sabbaghin). However the historical context 
makes it clear that the palace was merely part of a larger 
urban development not its principal cause and therefore 
Ramla should be considered as part of the third category 
to be discussed below. 

New Civilian Settlements 

In both the two categories discussed above urban 
development appears to have been a secondary 
consideration in this third category the creation of an 
urban entity appears to have been the primary 
consideration. Probably the best example of this type of 
settlement is Baghdad which was founded by the Abbasid 
caliph al-Mansur between 761 and 767 AD (for 
description and general discussion see Creswell 1989). 
Although the city had both cantonments for the army and 
palaces for the caliph and his family its primary purpose 
was to provide a capital for the new Abbasid caliphate (cf 
Creswell 1989, 242 n.3). Another aspect to the 

7 The date of Ukhaydhir is still not resolved though recent research has 
shown thai at least part of the development began in the Umayyad 
period (cf Fmster and Schmidl 1976 esp p. 57-80). 

' The renewed excavations at Khirbat al-Mafjar are pan of the Qasr 
Hisham project which is a partnership between UNESCO, the Palestine 
Department of Antiquities and the Studium Biblicum Fransiscanum. 
The results have not yel been formally published though a plan of the 
complex ii reproduced in a leaflet issued by the Palestinian National 
Authority Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities n.d. Qasr Hisham, 


ine towns oj raiesiine umua mmaum i\»»c 

foundation of the city has been observed by Kennedy 
who compares it to a modern property speculation 
whereby the developer (the caliph) buys the land very 
cheaply giving some in allotments to the administration 
and later selling the remaining land to prospective 
inhabitants at much higher prices (Kennedy 1981, 86). 

Ramla (Figs. 53-62 and Plates 34-44) appears to have 
been a similar type of settlement founded as a capital 
(though of a more restricted area) with the Governor 
(later Caliph) as the chief developer. Some memory of 
this is preserved in Baladhuri's account of the foundation 
of Ramla where he states; 

•when Sulayman had built for himself, he gave 
permission to the people for construction, and they built; 
and he dug for the people of al-Ramla their canal which is 
called Barada, and he dug wells' (al-Baladhuri ed de 
Gocje, 143). 

Tto army is not mentioned in the foundation accounts of 
Rwnla and it appears to have been primarily a civilian 
settlement. The location of Ramla close to Lydda/ Ludd 
in economic, and for a short time the actual capital of 
Palestine is significant and may be paralleled by 
Baghdad's proximity to the former Sassanian capital at 
Ctesiphon. In other words both cities were built next to 
existing urban centres yet were clearly distinct from 

It is possible that 'Anjar was a settlement of this kind 

though on a much reduced scale where the founder 

(Abbas ibn Walid?) established the essential 

afrastructure, (eg colonnaded streets, bathhouses, walls 

etc) and attempted to sell the remaining plots to civilian 

settlers (Fig. 15). There is also a question of the location 

of 'Anjar at die southern end of the Biqa valley. 

Superficially the site has a lot to recommend it situated 

midway between Damascus and the coast and it may have 

been intended as a rival to Baalbak (Heliopolis) further 

north. However as a property development 'Anjar 

manifestly failed as much of the interior of the city was 

■ever built upon. Bacharach has suggested that this was 

because the patron of the city (Abbas) was not 

tafficieuUy important to attract settlers. If we accept 

Bacharach's proposition that 'Anjar was constructed by 

| Abbas ibn Walid the fact that he never succeeded to the 

If caliphate may have been an important factor in the city's 

5 decline though a more powerful reason may have been 

Ant its location was wrong 9 . 

|Cb|ittls and Chief Towns 

Ik division of Palestine into two administrative districts 
water the Muslims meant that in theory, at least, there 
were two capitals, one of Filastin and one of Urdunn 

* An alternative hypothesis suggested by Northedge ( 1 994 234-5) is that 
-to 'Anjar was built by Abbas for housing his troops. However this does 
■(■cesurUy imply that 'Anjar was a military camp r^*" <*** ic was 
laaJBl « a civilian setdement for troops and their families In any 
its Northedge admits there is no certainty for bis interpretation. 

(Fig*. 10 and 11). However in practice it appears mat the 
capital of Filastin was pie-eminent, thus Ramla was more 
important than Tiberias in the early Islamic period and 
Gaza was more important than Safad under the Mamluks. 

Under the Byzantines Palaestina I (equivalent to Filastin) 
was ruled from Caesarea though Lydda appears to have 
been the economic capital (Shwartz 1991). Initially the 
Muslims also used Caesarea as a capital but soon moved 
to Emmaus- Nicopolis, presumably because the coast was 
thought to be too vulnerable to Byzantine attack. The 
nature of the Muslim settlement at Emmaus is unknown 
despite some limited excavations at the site mainly 
concerned with the church (Vincent and Abel 1932). The 
memory of the presence of an early Muslim camp at 
Emmaus is commemorated by the shrine of the Muslim 
general which occupies the site of a former Roman 
bathhouse (Dow 1996, 33. Plate 28). The Muslim base at 
Emmaus was soon discontinued because of a plague and 
the capital was moved to Lydda (Tabari ed. Guidi I, 
2516). Soon after the move Sulayman founded Ramla as 
a new city adjacent to the predominantly Christian city of 
Lydda (al-Baladhuri Goeje. 143). The name Ramla 
(sandy) presumably refers to the fact that the site was 
previously uninhabited and may also have had some 
connotations for Muslim Arabs away from their desert 
origins (cf foundation of Kufa below and detailed 
discussion of Ramla in Chapter 8). 

The above account of the foundation of Ramla echoes 
similar stories relating to the foundation of other Islamic 
capitals cities such as Kufa, Wasit, Baghdad and Samarra. 
In all these cases existing centres were tried and found to 
be unsatisfactory leading to the foundation of a new city. 
Although the reasons for rejecting the older, alternative 
sites, were different in each case there appear to have 
been a few common factors. In the first place there was a 
need to be distinctive, to place the past at a distance and 
inaugurate a new era. Secondly the new capita! cities 
were created to house Muslims and as such were places 
where Islam was central to the organisation of the 
settlement. Thirdly in each case there was an economic 
element, for example Kennedy's description of the 
foundation of Baghdad as a giant property speculation 
(1981, 86). Similarly he interprets the foundation of 
Wasit as a way of paying the Syrian aimy. Fourthly the 
location of a new capital city was designed to fit the 
particular dynastic and political circumstances. Thus 
Kufa was located on the right (west) bank of the 
Euphrates enabling the tribesmen to maintain their 
contacts with the Arabian peninsula. On the other hand 
Baghdad was located in the centre of Iraq at a place 
where the Tigris and Euphrates are at their closest giving 
it access to both sides of each river and areas beyond 
(Fig. 8). 

The above factors all apply to Ramla. It must have been 
evident to the Umayyads that Lydda was the economic 
centre of the region, yet it was unsuitable as a Muslim 
capital because of its Christian associations and also 
because there was little room to establish a Muslim 


Andrew Petersen 

administration without displacing the very people JM 

Se land on which Ramla was was cheap for 
slvrnan to purchase because it was sandy and w«h no 
L u aT^aler'upplies yet it could be sold .* m Jjgj 
price once he had begun to construct a regiona cap tal on 
th* site with water supplied by a new aqueduct. For these 
« s "n wafkeen to encourage £»^ 
TLydda to move to his new city somcUmes even 

Baalbak c.f. Bacharach). 

From its foundation it is clear mat Ramla was >»■£*» 

SoweveT there are a few unresolved questions about 
K s*tus as a capital and in particular m 
its relationship to Jerusalem. 

«,„«*<l it as the imperial capital superseding 
EL2T1L id" 7f SaUm as an alternative 
SJS^S »- been put *-^ * * "^ 
scholars (Peters 1985, 201; Baccharach 1996 38 n,lU 
hougTmere Is no evidence that it ever achieved this 
tatuf The unfinished nature of the Umayyad works 
SS of the Aqsa mosque suggests that M of 
Jerusalem as imperial capital were short lived. 

During the tenth and eleventh century me deterioration of 
Apolitical situation meant that ddfa« £■ ££ 
country were under the control of Afferent forces^ 
However there was still some recogniUon that Ramla was 
STSta? thus Fatimid coins continued to be minted 
tSSm un«l the middle of the eleven* M «g 

Wanow 1942 .72. 181, 191. 194). The symbol* 
LpoZc of Ramla as a capital city can be seen by the 
ffS the Qaramatis established them^v* ^ 
minted their own coins in the years 360-2 AH (9«M 
AD MMitchell and Levy 1965/6). With the_ Crusad* 
conauest of the mint of Filastin was transferred to fro* 
StoAscalon indicatmg that ^ MM** 
as the Muslim capital of Palestine (Oil 1992.367 n. w * 


Although it is noticeable that Jerusalem ********* 
hfof sites which functioned as capital during the eariy 
sTarnc period it is clear that it had a special status 
ftaS) te great significance to the Umayyads can be 
len by the construction of the Dome of the Rock and 
SocSed buildings in the Haram. One couW arg e t a 
this imoortance was purely religious were it not tor me 
SS STuTstantialUal ^^S^St 
to the south of the ******** M *£n ^ 
Creswell 1989, 95-6; Rosen-Ayalon 1989, 8- U- inc 
Son of these buildings directly behind the 

Wasit and indicates that the city was more than simply a 

religious centre. 

The relationship between the two cities, barely fifty 
SmctfS, becomes even more relevant when 

*£ZX this S the place where he received his 
SS« Sfice- The fact that he was prepared to leave 
hTsown city unfinished implies that he did not regard 
Randlas suitable residence for a caliph though of 
fihMMN for a provincial governor (it also implies 
dttfe city was unfinished an idea that is supported by 
me aKhaeological evidence which shows no substantial 
the «2£»£e 1ft AD). The fact that Sulayman took 
SSTtaSS Jewish King Solomon implies 
simeTornV of .dentiflcation with Jcn^Um -H n« may 

The status of Jerusalem in this period .mmed »*>"»» 
he Crusader conquest is less clear. Carole Hillenbrand 
^gues L the Fatimids initiated a pol^y of enhancing 
Se city's sanctity that may have begun with the 
L2o» of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre by * 
hX inl009- This was followed later in Ok : century by 
ITZ re^nsive restoration work on the Hararr gm 
he Umayyad period. The work included the rebuilding o 
to Aqs7 mosque and extensive mosaic msenpuons 
ncludmg the first referring to Muhammad s ascent to 
heaven (a theme which became current m later times^ 
Hmenbrand also po^ts out that during this period 
Muslims used Jerusalem as an alternative ptlgnmage 
ZS5Z2SZ (Hillenbrand 1999 14fc N«£ 
Khusraw in Le Strange 1890, 88; see also Dun 1982. 
55 Twm h is clear that the Fatimids carried out this 
wort' mTrusalem the reasons for this veneration have 

n^t been discussed. One ^.^^*£?2 
successes of the Qaramatis who m the 970s headea ao 
S d anu-F*imid forces. The Qaramatis were aa 

o he Qaramatis and the closeness of then- d^tnnes 
L Faumids may have have encouraged the Fatimid « 

develop Jerusalem as a centre of Muslim veneraU* 

though not as a political capital. 

Whatever plans the Fatimids had for Jerusalem we, 
rcve sed in 1099 when the Crusaders took control of A 
X Under Prankish control Jerusalem was re-structu* 


The Tgmu of Palestine Under Muslim Rule 

as a Christian city (eg conversion of Dome of the Rock 
into a church and of the Aqsa Mosque into the 
headquarters of the Templars) and became capital of the 
Crusader Kingdom until its re-conquest by Saladin in 
1187. Thus for a period of almost ninety years Jerusalem 
ftnctioned both as a spiritual and political capital. It is 
paotiMe that the Ayyubid prince al-Muazzam 'Isa 
.plumed to retain Jerusalem as a capital by his re- 
ij Construction of the walls though the demolition of the 
a few years later clearly indicated an end to this 
(CHillenbrand 1999, 215: Sibt al-Jawzi W/2, 






The principal event that separates the early Islamic period 
from later medieval times is the Crusader conquest of 
AD1099. Although there are undoubtedly elements of 
continuity between the two periods, the Crusader 
occupation marks a change in the political, cultural and 
economic make up of the region as fundamental as that 
introduced by the Muslim conquest nearly five hundred 
years earlier. The Crusader territories were divided into 
three contiguous states: the Kingdom of Jerusalem 
comprising most of Palestine and parts of southern 
Lebanon, the County of Tripoli and the Principality of 
Antioch. Crusader control was essentially restricted to the 
coastal areas and, with a few exceptions, rarely reached 
further east. Thus the castles of Karak and Crac des 
Chevaliers were the eastern outposts of Latin 

Daring the period of Crusader rule the orientation of the 
area was abruptly shifted westwards and northwards 
away from the influence of the Fatimids to the south and 
from the Turks to the east. Allied to this change was the 
division of greater Syria (Bilad al-Sham) into a coastal 
region dominated by the Franks and the interior ruled by 
Turkic dynasties. In both cases the local people were 
subject to foreign rulers the only difference being their 
rcligion. Unfortunately there are no precise data on the 
relative proportion of Christians to Muslims in Palestine 
prior to the Crusades (for a discussion of the relative 
proportions of each population see Ellenblum 1998, 20- 
21). The only thing which can be said with any certainty 
is that the population contained significant proportions of 
bom religions and that both sectors had become 
accustomed to Muslim rule and therefore Crusader rule 
was a major change. 

The accounts of the Crusader conquest are considerably 
more detailed than those of the Muslim victories five 
centuries earlier. Unlike the Muslim conquest which was 
mostly fought between rival armies the Frankish 
occupation comprised a number of sieges and attacks on 
cities. Muslim historians give graphic descriptions of the 
destruction accompanying the Crusader occupation of 
cities thus, Ibn al-Athir states in reference to the taking of 
Acre, 'The Franks took it by assault, and unleashed the 
fall violence of their brutality on the population'; or, 
describing the fall of Jerusalem, 'the population was put 
to sword by the Franks, who pillaged the area for a week' 
(Ibn al-Athir X, 193-5 and 225 trans in Gabrieli 1969,11 
and 17). Whilst these accounts were no doubt coloured by 
Muslim sentiments it is clear that the Crusader conquest 
was brutal and destructive especially in the cities. 

Set against this generally negative account of the 
Crusader conquest it can be seen that the cities were 
fairly rapidly repopulated and few towns were abandoned 

as a result of the conquest 1 . Naturally the city that 
attracted the most attention was Jerusalem which rapidly 
developed as a political and religious capital of the 
Frankish state. It is difficult to gauge the effect of the 
Crusader conquest on the layout of the city as many of 
the most important Christian sites pre-dated their arrival 2 
and very little is known of the appearance of the city 
immediately before their conquest (though see Prawer 
1985). There was however some re-orientation, the most 
important elements of which were the conversion of the 
Dome of the Rock (Qubbat al-Sahra) into a church 
(Templum Domini) and the conversion of the Aqsa 
Mosque into the headquarters of the Templars. The 
influence of the Crusaders on town planning is more 
visible in Acre which replaced Jerusalem as capital in 
1191 (Pringle 1997, 15-17). With its increased 
importance the city walls were expanded to enclose a 
much larger area than either the earlier Fatimid walls or 
the Ottoman walls which currently enclose the old city 
(the precise size of the thirteenth century city is still a 
matter of discussion though it was clearly much larger). 
One of the features of the thirteenth century city was its 
division into quarters for different groups and 
nationalities. A similar division appears to have taken 
place in Jaffa where there were separate quarters for the 
Pisans and the Hospitallers. Like Acre, Jaffa appears to 
have comprised two walled areas, an inner area or citadel 
and an outer suburb or faubourg. It is not clear whether 
the suburb represented a new development or was a 
continuation from the Fatimid period though a document 
refers to it as burgus novus with its own parish church 
(RRHNo. 1085). 

In addition to the pre-existing towns it appears that the 
Crusaders founded some new urban settlements. New 
Frankish towns were of two types, small unfortified 
settlements and larger settlements which were subsidiary 
to a castle. In terms of size the unfortified settlements 
may be regarded as large villages though the fact that the 
inhabitants pursued a variety of occupations and had a 
sufficient number of burgesses to hold burgess courts 
means that they can be classed as small towns 3 . The 
fortified settlements such as 'Athlit, Safed and Dayr 
Darum may be regarded as primarily military in character 
though the fact that each contained a faubourg with and a 
burgess court indicates that they also had a substantial 

1 For a discussion of Crusader cities see Prawer 1977 and 1980. 

2 The churches had all been destroyed by the Fatimid caliph al-Hakim 
(for references and description of destruction see Gil 1992, 370-381). 

3 Pringle (1995, 71) uses the burgess court as a consistent way of 
identifying urban settlements though Boas (1999, 57 no. I ) questions 
this stating that the urban qualifications of some of the settlements are 
very slim, The position adopted in this thesis is that the new Crusader 
settlements were embryonic towns which may not have had the size or 
population one would normally expect in a town but did have the 
potential to develop into towns. In this connection it is worthwhile 
recalling Swanson's comments on medieval towns of Britain where she 
observes that small towns often had populations of less than 500 


Andrew Petersen 

civilian component. In any case the continued success of There are no examples of towns ***^*£*** 

SafeTand Dayr Darum under the Mamluks and Ottomans result of the Crusader occupation fcough J"**"? J 

states that tte Crusaders had established a basic urban the area of both Ramla ^Q^j^S!£ 

Srmmicr^e in each of these settlements 4 . In addition to may have been the result **^5^**"2 

SHew towns a number of villages such as Bethlehem rulers. However both towns had been subject to numerous 

£dCSUe raised to urban status because of their attacks before the arrival of the Crusade* > and the 

XoTinVrtance to the Crusaders. It is perhaps reduction of the size of the watted >»MU 

ScWdS neither of these towns had any form of practical resposnse to a situation winch had occurred 

fSca^n Srhis as part of a deliberate policy to before their arrival. In any case Ramla had already been 

tomncation pernaps. ** pm ■ „ fl - tc weakened at the time of the conquest thus the inhabitants 

remove them from damage m any conflicts. fled before ^ arrival of the Crusaders. Although the 

Although in general the Crusaders attempted to establish town recovered in the twelfth century by the thuneenth 
Zis t a^uropean model they were undoubtedly century it seems to have be en more or less a g^osUovm 
influenced by Muslim concepts of urbanism because the as indicated by Yaqut (Le Strange 1890, 308). Other 
area had be7n under Muslim rule for five hundred years cities also suffered from the continuation of warfare 
TviSy ^d bTcauT^y had considerable contact throughout the period. For example at the tjmerfft 
S Z 121 Muslim population. Whilst the crusaders capture in 1153 Ascalon was a large waited erty covenng 
d«red k^slbols of religious authority such as the an area of fifty hectares with a reputation. ;«imated ^ 
S of the Rock they could not remove all traces of the 10.000 3 . By 1240 the city appears to have been deserted 
SST pJZ AlLugh there are no examples of with only a castle standing in die north-west corner of the 
mosques being constructed under Crusader rule there are site. 
examples of structures being built which are normally 
associated with Islamic towns. For example the new town 
of 'Athlit was equipped with a bathhouse and most of the 
cities contained khans for merchants. 

• The fact th« 'AAUt did no. ZZZZ „ » town is a result of the ' I would suggest a more cc^ative population estimate of 

The tact mm pun « fe ^ ^ areB enc l oseQ - wUun the walls. 

Mamluk nolir.v of destrovintt the oort cities. ™ 

1IK H»«* **"•• ."■.*«••" — — '■-'- 

Mamluk policy of destroying the port cities 



The Muslim re-conquest of Palestine was a slow process 
carried out over a period of approximately 100 years 
{from Saladin's capture of Jerusalem in 1 187 to the fall of 
Acre in 1291) and involving numerous battles and 
smaller skirmishes which gradually diminished its urban 
centres. The emergence of the Mamluks as a strong 
unified political force in the second half of the thirteenth 
century brought order to an otherwise confusing mosaic 
of territories, alliances and personalities which 
characterised the final years of the Crusader Kingdom 
(Figs. 17, 18 and 19). Despite its religious and political 
importance to the Muslims, Palestine was still regarded 
as vulnerable to renewed attacks from Western Europe. 
As a result, with a few notable exceptions, the cities of 
(he area were not developed and in some cases 
deliberately destroyed (see below coastal cities). Another 
legacy of the Crusader period was the large number of 
fortresses built throughout the country which later served 
as nuclei for urban development. 

The Crusaders were not the only enemy with which the 
Mamluks had to deal - to the east were the Mongols who 
had destroyed numerous Muslim town and cities. In 
many ways the Mongols were a more serious threat to the 
Mamluks because they were able to attack across a broad 
front whereas the Crusader threat was mostly restricted to 
the Mediterranean coast. In 1260 the Mamluks inflicted 
the first serious defeat on the Mongols at the battle of 
'Ayn Jalut to the west of Baysan. However the Mongol 
threat remained significant throughout the thirteenth 
century for example in 1280 Aleppo was pillaged and 
burnt and in 699AH (1299-1300) both Aleppo and 
Damascus were sacked. The Mongol threat was finally 
ended in 1322 when a peace was signed between the 
Mamluk Sultan al-Nasir Muhammad and the Il-Khan 
ruler of Iran 2 . 

For the remaining two hundred years of Mamluk rule 
Bilad al-Sham enjoyed its longest period of peace for 
many centuries. The stability allowed a large number of 
building projects to be carried out in towns and cities to 
repair the damage wrought by warfare (see for examples 
Meinicke 1992). However it should also be pointed out 
that that the peace was not entirely uninterrupted due to a 
virtual civil war which took place between Mamluk 
factions from 1388-1422. There were also a number of 
other factors which could have a negative effect on 
populations such as plagues, famines and changes in the 
global trade pattern. 

1 Rk a good nxem account of iheManduks see [rwin 1986. 

1 R* relations between the Mongols and Mamluks see Amitai Prciss 



The Mamluk state was an amalgam of the former 
Ayyubid principalities of inland Syria and the former 
Crusader territories of the coast with Egypt. According to 
this arrangement Cairo remained the capital of the empire 
and Damascus developed as a second capital with control 
over Syria. The Mamlakat (kingdom) Dimashq was 
subdivided into a number of parts which included the 
niyabas of Filastin and Urdunn. (The area of modem 
Jordan south of the Wadi Mujib belonged to a separate 
province the Mamlakat of Karak). 

New Towns 

Although it is well known that new towns were founded 
during the early Islamic period the instances of the 
creation of new towns during the medieval period is less 
well known and has generally not been commented on. 
Part of the reason that medieval new towns have not been 
noticed by modern historians is that in most cases they 
were not commented on by contemporary writers. 
Examples of Islamic new towns from the medieval period 
include Qasr al-Seghir in Morocco founded by the 
Almohad Sultan al-Mansur in 1184 (cf Redman 1986). 
Other examples include the building of the Seljuk capital 
of Merv next to the old city in the eleventh century (Fig. 
23) (Herrmann and Petersen 1997, 30) and the 
construction of Sultaniyya by the Mongol ruler Oljettu in 
1313 (Pope 1965, 172). Within the area of Bilad al-Sham 
the only example of a new town that it generally 
acknowledged is the city of Tripoli which was re-founded 
at a site two miles inland from the old city (Dimashqi 
trans. Mehren, 207; Ibn Battutah trans Defremery and 
Sanguinetti, 1, 137-38). The core of the new city was the 
Crusader castle built by Raymond Count of Tripoli 
(which in its turn stood on the site of an earlier Muslim 
fortress). The other main building in the town was the 
Great Mosque built in 1294 as the religious centre of the 
new city on the site of the former Crusader cathedral. 
Between these two buildings there was a single East- 
West street with side streets leading off at right angles 
which formed the basis of the urban layout. Significantly 
there was no town wall other than the sides of buildings. 
The chief defensive feature was the river to die north and 
the citadel which is located on a prominent spur (Salam- 
Liebich 1983). 

Other examples of towns which developed under the 
Mamluks include Ajlun, Karak and Hesban. Although 
each of these settlements existed before the eleventh 
century their urban development is mostly a product of 
the medieval period (ir-16* centuries). Karak was 
established as an important fortress under the Crusaders 
with an attached civilian settlement (William of Tyre ed. 
Huygens, XII, 29(28). Unfortunately the archaeology of 
the medieval town has yet to be investigated though the 


Andrew Petersen 

Table 2 

Name of 


_3 [131(a) 















Iffl i 








Main towns in Palestine in the late Mamluk period (fifteenth «M0 
Petersen 1995, (b) Pring.e, II, and .95-198 (c) Dow 109, (d) Cohen & Lew,s .978 (e) Heyd 1960. (0 FW»en 2001. 

importance attached to the town in the Mamluk period 
can be gauged by the fact that it was capital of a 
Mamlakal (province). Similarly the Ayyubid castle of 
'Ajlun was associated with an urban development (Johns 
1911). Unfortunately this town is also in need of 
archaeological investigation to determine the nature of 
the medieval town 3 . On the other hand the development 
of Hesban into a major centre during the Mamluk period 
has been the subject of an intensive archaeological and 
historical investigation (see for example Perch et al 1989 
esp 27-35 and De Vries 1993). After relatively sparse 
occupation during the Ayyubid period the settlement was 
remodelled during the early Mamluk period and provided 
with various building indicative of an urban site including 
large underground cisterns, a caravanserai and a bath 
house (De Vries 1993 esp 164). During this period 
Hesban functioned as the capital of the Balqa replacing 
Amman which by this time was scarcely populated (Abu 
al-Fida ed. Renaud and de Slane 1840, 245). 

The principal new town founded in Palestine was Safed 
(Fig 43). This was a similar development to Tripoli and 
Karak with the new town built around the base of the 
Crusader fortress. Although there is some evidence of a 
Crusader town at the site it appears to have been fairly 
small and does not compare with the town later 
developed by the Mamluks with its many mosques, khans 
and bathhouses (Abu al-Fida, ed. Renaud and de Slane, 
243; Mayer and Pinkerfeld 1950, 41 ff.). 

Another possible candidate for the status of new town is 
Qaqun which also had a Crusader fortress at its centre 
(Pringle 1986, 58-71). Under the Mamluks Qaqun was 
developed as a regional administrative centre and 
Qalqashandi (ed Alt, IV, 100) described it as a pleasant 
town. The area in the immediate vicinity of the Crusader 
castle was, until 1948, occupied by a Palestinian village 
which was subsequently destroyed hampering any 
attempts to identify the Mamluk settlement (Khahdi 
1992. 559-60). 

« Johns was engaged on a project, ^^^"^iT^nuhS 
although unfortunately this has not been published. H.s mpMthed 
papjon die town are in the care of the Palestine Exploration Fund .n 

In addition to the towns recognized by Mamluk 
administrators there are a number of settlements which 
appear to merit urban status even though they were 
referred to as villages. The most notable example of this 
phenomenon is Majdal located to the north east .of the 
destroyed city of Ascalon (Fig. 48, Plate* 22-25). The 
village had a Friday Mosque (Meinicke 1992, II, 91) and 
a market place and a sizeable population which, at the 
end of the Mamluk period, was twice that of Ramla 
(Cohen and Lewis 1978, 19). 

Discontinued Towns 

Under the Crusaders there were thirty-six settlements 
within our area which from an administrative point of 
view may be classed as towns (Pringle 1997, 3-5). It 
appears that at least some of these were only towns in the 
technical sense (i.e. they had burgess courts but were very 
small) thus it is difficult to class settlements such as al- 
Ram, al-Bira. Qubaiba. Dabburiya, Bail Suriq as urban 
settlements. However removing these names from the list 
of towns still leaves a considerably larger number of 
urban setdements than under the Mamluks. The main 
reason for the decline in urban settlement was the 
destruction of the coastal towns which not only removed 
those towns but inhibited development throughout the 
coastal plain. An example of the effects of this policy on 
inland towns can be seen by looking at Qaimun which 
was re-developed as a new town in the Fatimid period 
and continued to develop under Crusader rule yet was 
virtually abandoned during the Mamluk period 
presumably because of the demise of nearby Haifa (Ben 
Tor et al 1996). However there were also towns which 
appear to have disappeared away from the coast the most 
prominent of these are Baysan and Tiberias. Although 
there is evidence for continued settlement of these sites 
neither were recorded as towns in Mamluk documents 
perhaps indicating destruction by the Mongols. More 
significandy the archaeological evidence indicates a 
reduced area of settlement at both sites with a level of 
occupation equivalent to that of villages. The cause of 
this decline is not known although in both cases it 
appears to predate the Mamluk period. There are, 
however some other cases which might be a result of 
deliberate neglect thus Lydda was allowed to decline to 
the benefit of Ramla (though by the sixteenth century 
there was not much difference in the size of theurj 
populations cf Cohen and Lewis 1978. 19). 

Continuously inhabited Towns 

With the coastal cities destroyed and many of the interior 
towns in a depressed condition the urban infrastructure 
was severely damaged. Most of the towns that survived 
were located in the hills to the east of the coastal plain, in 
particular Nablus (Fig.21), Jerusalem (FlgJO) and 
Hebron. Other towns which survived but were in a much 
reduced condition include Bayt Jibrin, Ramla and Yibna. 
The only coastal town which was allowed to remain un- 
demolished was Gaza, presumably because of its 
proximity to Egypt and position on die main road linking 
Cairo with Damascus. 

With the exception of Bayt Jibrin all of these towns were 
subject to substantial rebuilding carried out at the expense 
of Mamluk officals. As might be expected Jerusalem 
received the greatest amount of investment with the area 
of the Haram and its immediate vicinity being selected 
for particular attention (for examples see Burgoyne 
1983). Against this general burst of construction is the 
feet that the city was left unwalled as a precaution against 
potential Crusader occupation. A similar policy was ado- 
pled at other towns in Palestine and it is notable that the 
defences in all these towns were reduced to citadels (usu- 
ally the former Crusader castle). It is notable that some 
Mamluk towns outside Palestine had walls: for example 
Damascus and Aleppo were both enclosed with walls and 
even the coastal port of Beirut was partially walled. 

Neither of the other two hill towns, Hebron and Nablus, 
appear to have been particularly important in early 
Islamic times but they became the focus for urban 
development after the destruction of the coastal cities. 
Unfortunately the archaeology of both cities has not been 
investigated in deiail beyond the major monuments and 
any comments must be provisional. 

Nablus suffered during the twelfth and thirteenth cent- 
imes not only from warfare between the Crusaders and 
Muslims (the town was sacked in 1 1 33, 1 137, 1 184, 11 87 
and 1242) but also because of its location which makes it 
extremely vulnerable to earthquakes (earthquakes occur- 
red in 1182. 1201 and 1202). During the Mamluk period 
there appears to have been a certain amount of urban 
renewal including the re-conversion of the Crusader 
Church back into a Friday Mosque. Extant buildings 
dated to the Mamluk period include Jami Hizn Sidna 
Ya'qub built, or re-built 1288-90, the Mausoleum of 
Shaykh Badran (672 AH/1273-4 AD) and Hammam al- 
Baydarah (672 AH/1273/4 AD) in addition there are a 
number of Mamluk buildings which were destroyed in 
more recent earthquakes (Fig. 21). 

In some ways Hebron could be considered a new town 
because it was only described as a village in earlier 
Islamic sources such as Muqaddasi and Nasir-i-Khusraw. 
During the Crusader period Hebron had a burgess court 
and technically qualified as a town. This change in the 
status is remarked by the geographer al-Idrissi who stated 
in 1 154 that it was a village which had become a city. 

However little is known of either the Crusader or earlier 
Muslim occupation outside the Haram with the exception 
of a house excavated in the 1960s by Hammond (1965, 
1966 and 1968). Whatever the status of Hebron under the 
Crusaders and earlier it is clear that under the Mamluks it 
had attained the status of a city with numerous mosques, 
madrassas, bathhouses ribats and zawiyahs. As in 
Jerusalem the attention of Mamluk investment was the 
area of the Haram or sacred area which in Hebron 
enclosed the tombs of the patriarchs Abraham, Isaac and 
Jacob. Some idea of the status of Hebron dunng this 
period can be gauged by the fact that Mujir al-Din 
entitled his work al- uns aljalil bi tarikk al-Quds wa al- 
Khalil (a description of Jerusalem and Hebron). 
Presumably the enhanced status of Hebron was connected 
with its religious significance although it may also have 
been a result of population movements away from the 
destroyed coastal region. The removal of the minbar from 
the Friday mosque in Ascalon to Hebron supports both of 
these propositions (Mujir al-Din trans. Sauvaire, 16). 

The only hill town which did not thrive in the Mamluk 
period is Bayt Jibrin which in any case was more easily 
accessible from the coastal plain. Although the town was 
not deliberately destroyed it does appear to have been 
reduced to the status of a village attached to a fortress. In 
any case there is some question as to the condition of the 
town before this period thus Muqaddasi in the tenth 
century notes that the population of the area was in 
decline. The situation does not appear to have improved 
by the mid-twelfth century (before 1160) when the 
Hospitallers were granted a charter encouraging the 
development of a civilian settlement around the castle 
(Cart, des Hosp.,l, 272-3, no.399) implying that the 
settlement still had a small population. 

Gaza (Fig. 22) was second only to Jerusalem in the scale 
of investment and the number of buildings erected during 
the Mamluk period and in political terms it was more 
important- at least during the first part of Mamluk rule 
(i.e. under the Bahri Mamluks) (Sadek 1991). It is 
possible that the enhanced status of Gaza in the Mamluk 
period was derived not only from its proximity to Egypt 
(which would of course make it a favoured posting 
amongst Mamluk amirs) but also from the movement of 
population from other coastal towns (in particular the 
destroyed city of Ascalon). 

The only other major city on the coastal plain was Ramla 
(Fig.61), which at the beginning of the Mamluk period 
appears to have been in ruins. Considerable efforts were 
made to revive the fortunes of the town which included 
the re-building of the White Mosque by Baybars. There is 
some indication that these efforts were successful, thus rn 
the early fourteenth century Ramla was described as the 
most populous town in Palestine (Abu al-Fida ed. Renaud 
& de Slane 226-7). However this may simply be a reflect- 
ion of the sorrowful condition of other towns rather than 
an indication of the vitality of Ramla as other fourteenth 
century sources describe Ramla as largely ruined (see for 
example Ibn Battuta trans. Le Strange 1890, 308). 




In research terms the main difference between the 
Ottoman period and earlier times is that for the first time 
detailed figures of population and revenue are available 
(see for example Hutteroth and Abdulfattah 1977; Cohen 
and Lewis 1978; Bakhit 1982; Heyd 1960 and more 
recently Singer 1994). Whilst this data is very useful and 
is amenable to statistical analysis it does present one with 
she problem of how to compare this period with earlier 
periods. The problem is made particularly difficult by the 
feet that very little archaeological research has been 
concerned with the Ottoman period. There a number of 
reasons for this situation though the implicit preference 
for historical documents over archaeological evidence is a 
major factor. The flaws in an over reliance on historical 
documents of this period have been pointed out by Johns 
(1992) who emphasises the corrective influence of 
archaeology 1 . 

The Ottoman conquest in 1516 does not appear to have 
been a revolutionary change for the Bilad al-Sham in 
general and Palestine in particular. Like the Mamluks the 
Ottomans were a Turkish dynasty with a similar attitudes 
to the Muslim religion. Evidence of the continuity can be 
seen from the fact that the Mamluk governor of 
Damascus Janbirdi al-Ghazali was allowed to remain in 
office after the Ottoman conquest until his rebellion in 
1521. Similarly the Mamluk governor of Aleppo was 
transferred or promoted to the same post in Cairo by the 
new Ottoman rulers (Bakhit 1982). The main differences 
between the two regimes were that the Ottomans had 
developed a more advanced military capability (in 
particular firearms and the use of a navy) and were based 
in Constantinople rather than Cairo. During the first 
century of Ottoman rule there was a change in the 
importance of Syria. Damascus in particular was given 
added importance and was made the starting point of the 
official Hajj caravans, which under the Mamluks had 
always started from Cairo (Bakhit 1982, 107- 11 5). 


Under the Ottomans Palestine, along with most of Syria, 
became part of the Ottoman province of Damascus which 
was subdivided into a number of Sanjaks. Palestine was 
divided into four (later five) sanjaks of Jerusalem, Gaza, 
Niblus and Safed (Bakhit 1982, 91; Cohen and Lewis 
1978, 13).)- A fifth area, apparently without an urban 
centre, known as the ikta of Turabay was later (1583) 
converted into the Sanjak of Lejjun. In addition to the 
four towns recognized as the heads of Sanjaks two other 
towns were also recognized: Ramla and Hebron. Three 
words are used to denote towns in Ottoman documents 
these are kasaba, sehir and madina. Kasaba and sehir are 

both Ottoman technical terms with precise meanings thus 
sehir specifically refers to a town whilst kasaba refers to 
a place which is the administrative centre of a district, in 
particular the seat of a na'ib (deputy-judge). Madina is an 
Arabic word which does not have a specific meaning in 
Ottoman administrative language though it is used to 
describe Hebron in official Turkish documents. It has 
been suggested that the terms is used for Hebron because 
although it did not figure as a town in fiscal terms it 
retained some status as a religious centre . 

New Towns 

There are no examples of new towns created under 
Ottoman rule in Bilad al-Sham during the sixteenth 
century 3 . There are, however a few villages which appear 
to have grown in importance possibly attaining urban 
attributes thus both Lajjun and Jenin within the Ikta 
Tarabay (later Sanjak of Jenin) appear to have developed 
as important local centres. For example a letter {hiikum) 
dated 1589 addressed to Assaf bin Tarabay states that he 
is allowed to settle in the small town of Lejjun (Heyd 
1960,53). Unfortunately there has been very little 
archaeological investigation of the site though the 
existence of a fourteenth century caravanserai and a 
medieval bridge indicate that the site was already of some 
importance under the Mamluks (Petersen 2001,201-202). 
Other settlements grew to a significant size where they 
could be classified as urban thus eleven villages had a 
population in excess of 1000 and at least three had a 
population in excess of 2000 (see Appendii 2, Table 9). 

Settlements with a Population exceeding 2000 people 
(Figs. 25 and 26) 

The most notable of these is Majdal which had a 
population of 2795 (i.e ranked sixth) exceeding that of 
Ramla and nearly equalling Hebron during the same 
period. The impression of importance is confirmed when 
one looks at revenue where again Majdal is ranked sixth 
ahead of Hebron during the same period. The range of 
taxes raised at Majdal also provide evidence for urban 
status and it is notable that it has a general market tax. 
Further confirmation for urban status is provided by the 
fact that Majdal had its own qadi (Heyd 1960, 42 & 145- 
6, No.93). The only reason Majdal has not generally been 

1 For a review of Ottoman archaeology of Palestine see SUiiU ( 1 997-8). 

2 Cohen and Lewis (1978, 1 12, note 42) argue that the use of the word 
madina in the later registers (1538-9. 1553^1 1562 and 1596) are meant 
to indicate that "as regards its effective fiscal and perhaps also 
administrative Btatus Hebron was a village... the use of the Arabic term 
madina ... indicates that its urban status was purely hononfic, in 
recognition of its religious importance.' Whilst this argument may have 
some merit is respect of fiscal matters it ignores the feet that m later 
registers where the term madina is used the population had recovered to 
significant levels and was comparable with other towns such as Nablus 
and exceeded that of Ramla which was still referred to as a ?ehir (i.e the 
normal Ottoman term for a city). 
' The founding of Beersheba in the early twentieth century is one of the 

few aKamptn ufOttnnwn raw towns in the rCtfion. 


Andrew Petersen 

Table 3 

Name of Town 






























Main towns in Palestine in the sixteenth century 
Petersen 1995, (b) Pringle, II, and 195-198 (c) Dow 109, (d) Cohen & Lewis 1978 (e) Heyd 1960, (0 Petersen 2001. 

recognized as a town is probably that it was a relatively 
new settlement 4 . 

The largest settlement after Majdal was Kafr Kanna 
located in Galilee approximately midway between Nablus 
and Safed. Although listed as a village the settlement had 
a population similar to that of Majdal (2605 in 1 595) and 
revenues higher than Hebron during the same period. 
Significantly this was the only village in Palestine which 
paid taxes on separate market activities which was 
usually a characteristic of urban revenue (see Hiitteroth 
and Abdulfattah 1977, 87 Fig. 8). Kafr Kanna also had its 
own qadi which suggests administrative recognition of its 
urban status (Heyd 1960, 42). 

The third village with a population in excess of 2000 is 
Ludd/Lydda next to Ramla. The presence of a general 
market tux indicates significant commercial activity more 
usually associated with urban settlements. The proximity 
of Ramla suggests that the two settlements should 
perhaps be treated as a single urban area. 

Settlements with a population in excess of 1000 people 

Eight villages in the AD 1596 tax registers had a 
population in excess of 1000 and less than 2000. Some of 
these had previously been urban settlements; thus 
Nazareth, Dayr Darum, and Bethlehem had all once been 
towns. Nazareth and Bethlehem were both important 
during the period of the Crusades as religious centres (cf 
Pringle 1997, 4 Table 1). Their continued importance 
during the Ottoman period can perhaps be attributed to 
continuing Christian pilgrimage though significantly few 
Christians are registered in Nazareth in the late sixteenth 
century (Hatteroth and Abdulfattah 1977, 188). On the 
other hand Dayr Darum's continued importance may be 
attributed to its proximity to Gaza and its position on the 
via Maris. Safuriyya had also once been a town though it 
appears to have been of negligible importance during the 
Crusades and its growth a product of tiie Ottoman period. 
There are a number of other villages of considerable size 
whose growth must have been a product of the Ottoman 
period. Amongst these are Jabalya and Buryar both of 
which lie approximately 10km from Gaza and probably 
benefited from the growth of the latter and the extinction 
of Ascalon. The previously unknown village of 'Alma 
presumably owes its large population (1440) and 

considerable revenue to its proximity to the growing town] 
of Safed. Similalry Bayt Jala (and Bethlehem) which lies] 
within ten miles of Jerusalem owes its growth to the 
success of the latter. The fact that Bayt Jala is located two j 
kilometres from Bethlehem suggests that the two together] 
should perhaps be regarded as an urban area though] 
Singer ( 1 994, 80-85) rejects this idea 5 . 

One other factor possibly affecting the pattern of] 
urbanization was the construction of fortresses by the] 
Ottomans during the first century of Ottoman rule. j 
Although the prime purpose of these fortresses was to 1 
control the road system and enforce Ottoman authority in j 
the countryside they may have been intended to form the | 
nuclei of future settlements (this is stated explicitly in a 
firman establishing the fortress at Arish (Heyd I960, 
1 03)). It is for example notable that the town of Jenin 
appears to have developed after a firman of 1 564 ordering 
the conversion of the ruinous (Mamluk?) caravanserai 
into a fortress (Heyd 1960, 104-5). Similarly the 
refortification of Bayt Jibrin (Heyd 1960,42, 1 15-6) may 
have been part of an attempt to revive the fortunes of this 
formerly important town. By 1596 the population had 
dwindled to 250 (Htttteroth and Abdulfattah 1977, 149) 
although it still retained its own qadi (Heyd I960, 42). 

Discontinued Towns 

Although there are no examples of towns disappearing 
during this period some of the settlements still classed as 
towns in Mamluk times were no longer accorded this 
title. For example although Tiberias was capital of a 
nahiya it was not recognised as a town in Ottoman 
documents. This was despite significant attempts to 
repopulate the town including the rebuilding of the town 
wall in 1562 (Heyd I960, 140-2). Likewise Yibna, which 
was described as a town in the thirteenth century had 
declined to the status of a village in the sixteenth century 
with an estimated population of 645 (HUtteroth and 
Abdulfattah 1977, 143). Baysan also appears to have 
further declined so that by the end of the sixteenth 
century it had a population of little more than 200. In this 
connection it may be significant that the nearby 

* This status was achieved after 19)8 under the British Mandate. 

3 Singer rejects the idea that Bethlehem and Bayt Jala could be regarded 
as towns because of the absence of market taxes or road tolls. However 
as she admits both were very populous and hetrogenous in their 
population. I would suggest that they were not given official urban 
status because of the preponderance of Christians though in economic 
terms they may have functioned as towns without official recognition. 


caravanserai (Khan al Ahmar) is not mentioned in 
Ottoman documents of this period. 

The poor condition of Tiberias, Yibna and Baysan 

represents the Jatest phase in a decline which had begun 

before the thirteenth century. On the other hand die 

decline of Qaqun represents the sudden extinction of a 

Msmluk regional centre. Under the Mamluks it had 

served as a regional capital and had many of the attributes 

of a town including a caravanserai and bathhouse 

(Qalqashandi ed Ali, IV, 100). However it appears that it 

vis primarily a Mamluk military base (Pringle 1986,60). 

Under the Ottomans military power for the area passed to 

the Tarabay family who were based at Lajjun (Bakhit 

1982, 209-11) making Qaqun redundant. However some 

memory of its importance was retained in the 

.dministrative district known as the nahiya of Qaqun and 

me fact that there was a toll station m the village 

(Hutterotb and Abdulfattah 1977, 94 Fig 9). 

More significantly some of the towns recognised as such 
by the Ottoman authorities had very small populations 
■ad appear to have been in danger of losing their urban 
Ofus. For example in 1525 Hebron had a population of 
665 which was smaller than many villages (Cohen and 
Lewis 1978, 111, Table 2). It is, perhaps, for this reason 
that Hebron was classed as a rural settlement in fiscal 
terms though it was still referred to as a madma in 
Kljgjous and administrative terms 6 . The other example is 
Ramla whose population fell from just over two thousand 
(2016) in 1525 to just over fifteen hundred (1698) m 
1596 when it was smaller than fourteen larger settlements 
including eight which were classified as villages (see 
Appendix 1 Table 9). However set against this view of 
demographic decline it should be noted that Ramla is 
ranked fifth in terms of revenue for the same penod 
confirming its urban status. 

The Main Cities 

The majority of towns and cities in the former Mamluk 
province of Damascus continued to develop as they had 
under the Mamluks and in the majority of cases there is 
linle obvious indication of the new Ottoman rulers 
outside the major cities. The process of the 
•Ottomanization' of Damascus has been well described 
by Weber and Meinecke who describe three phases 1) 
continuity 2) importation of elements of imperial 
architecture and design and 5) an assimilation or 
symbiosis of Ottoman and native/Mamluk architecture. 
The first two phases took place during the sixteenth 
century whilst the third phase is a seventeenth century 
phenomenon. A similar process can be observed in 
Jerusalem which was the only town in Palestine to 
receive direct imperial involvement in its architecture and 
urban planning (see eds. Auld & Hillenbrand 2000 for a 
Ml description of Ottoman Jerusalem). The main features 
of the Ottoman urban renewal were repairing the 
infrastructure and embellishing the city with decorative 

The Towns of Palestine Under Muslim Rule 

features and the re-building of the city walls. Work on the 
infrastructure was primarily concerned with renewing the 
city's water supply and included renovating cisterns, 
building aqueducts and providing outlets in the city in the 
form of sabils. The embellishment of the city was 
primarily concerned with the area of the Haram and 
included as its most spectacular feature the covering of 
the Qubbat al-Sakhra (Dome of the Rock) with faience 
tiles made with a new technique which enabled the use of 
underglaze red painting. Rebuilding the city wall was 
probably the most high-profile and expensive undertaking 
and may also have been aimed at economic regeneration. 
The fact that no other city in Palestine was enclosed by 
walls at this time will have emphasised its singular 
importance and may have been intended to indicate that 
Jerusalem was to replace Gaza as the chief city. 

Although Jerusalem will have looked very different by 

the end of the sixteenth century there was very little about 
the improvements that looked specifically Ottoman. 
There were for example no Ottoman style complexes 
such as the Tekiyye in Damascus which appears to have 
been a direct Ottoman import (Goodwin 1971, 256). 
Similarly there were no pencil shaped minarets or large 
single domed mosques. In other words the influence of 
imperial Ottoman architecture appears to have been even 
more limited than in Damascus perhaps indicating that 
the Ottomans wished to preserve the existing religious 
character of the city. 

The Ottoman influence in the architecture of the other 
cities was even less marked thus there is no record of 
Ottoman construction in Ramla, Hebron, Safed or Nablus 
to match that carried out in Jerusalem. In fact apart from 
Jerusalem Ottoman building activity in the sixteenth 
century appears to have been confined to the construction 
of fortresses. This may be compared with the beginning 
of Mamluk rule in the thirteenth century when al-Zahir 
Baybars initiated an ambitious programme of renovation 
of shrine and other religious buildings m towns 
throughout the country. The difference may be partly 
explained by the fact that the Mamluks wanted to 
celebrate the Muslim reconquest of Palestine whereas for 
the Ottomans Palestine was only one of a number of 
territories acquired in the sixteenth century. 

* see above now 2. 

Urban Population 

The plentiful data provided by the Ottoman censuses of 
the sixteenth century enables comparisons of population 
and revenue both between towns and between urban and 
rural areas (see Appendix 2 for information on which the 
following section is based). The most revealing statistic is 
that at the end of the sixteenth century the combined 
urban population of Palestine was still less than that of 
the city of Damascus. The population of the largest 
Palestinian city, Jerusalem was only equivalent to that of 
Ba'albak indicating the provincial status of even the 
largest Palestinian city. The significance of the towns is 
not much enhanced when comparisons are made between 
the urban and rural populations. For example the majority 


oT the population w rural, 71.6% (168290) white only 
t8.4% (38000) lived in the ra main towns. Even when 
the large villages (Le. with a population over 1000) are 
added to the list die urban population is still only 28.5% 
(58871) compared with a rural population which 
comprised 71.5% (i.e. 200419) of the total. The situation 
is similar when one compares urban revenue with rural 
revenue, reinforcing the view that the economy of 
Palestine was predominantly rural. 

The primary function of the towns was therefore to 
service the large rural population providing markets, 
justice and contact with the wider world. During the 
sixteenth century the population of the towns increased 
markedly, though towards the end there was a slight 
reduction, though not to the levels at the beginning of the 
century. The growth in the urban population may be a 
result of a growth in the area under cultivation as 
Hutteroth and Abdulfattah estimate that by the end of the 

century nearly the 

cultivation (1977, «5-<S) 7 . 

high revenue of Saifcd in 1596 in couijjM&ii to the 
surrounding countryside suggests that its economy had a 
significant industrial and mercantile component. This is 
confirmed by a detailed examination of the tax registers 
which show that in the 1560' s Safed had a smaller 
population yet had a consistently higher market activity 
than Jerusalem. For example when Jerusalem paid 23,000 
akges for the general market tax (ihtisab) Safed paid 
80,000 akfes (i.e.more than three times as much). 

One further feature of Ottoman urban populations which 
should be noted is their hetrogenous character. Whereas 
over 95% of villages had only Muslim inhabitants, 100% 
of towns had a mixed population which included either 
Jews, Christians and Samaritans as well as Muslims 7 . 

7 The mixture of different religious groups as part of the urban 
will be discussed in greater detail in toe conclusion. 




Onmte and landscape 

The Negev today is a harsh desert area bordered on the 
east by the Wadi Arabah and on the west by the Sinai. It 
has an average annual rainfall below 200mm for the 
northern part and less than 100mm for the central and 
nutbern parts. The rainfall can be subject to significant 
local variation as a result of the altitude which in places 
reaches nearly 1000 metres above sea level (Figs. 4 and 
25). The geomorphology of the region is marked by five 
pmallel ridge running North-East to South-West with 
broad troughs in between and steeply incised wadis 
(Evenari et al 1982). In the north-west, between 
Botrsbeba and Nessana there is a wide area of shifting 
Had (Hb. Holot Haluza) which exists in the form of 
Btear dunes aligned NE-SW of E-W. The dunes originate 
in die northern Sinai and become progressively younger 
innards the east (Goldberg 1998, 48-9). The vegetation in 
ate north may be characterised as degraded steppe (Irano- 
Turanian) and in the south is more desertic (Saharo- 

tjsannne and Early Islamic Period 

The Negev has attracted considerable interest as the most 

extreme example of depopulation occurring as a result of 

Ac Muslim conquests (cf. Figs 28 and 29). The main 

| reason for this is the discovery of the ruins of a number of 

Negev towns in the nineteenth and early twentieth 

century standing apparently isolated in the middle of the 

desert . With many buildings still standing to first floor 

level the towns were seen as dramatic symbols of urban 

decline under Muslim rule. There are two inter-related 

anmmptions implicit in this view 1) that the towns ceased 

I to exist at the time of the Muslim conquest and 2) that the 

K decline was inextricably linked to the influx of Muslim 

P Arabs. In the rest of this chapter I will challenge these 

anumptions and suggest both an alternative dating for the 

L decline of the towns and another cause for their 

| abandonment. However first it is necessary to give some 

idea of the contemporary environment in which these 

i are located. 

1. Daring the abandonment 

The date of the abandonment of these towns is an 
!' important question because a single date would suggest a 
catastrophic event such as a concerted series of attacks 
F whereas a range of dates would suggest a less immediate 
cause. It is now generally accepted that the towns were 
abandoned at different dates although establishing precise 
dates is problematic. The information presented by 

excavations of the main cities generally shows that there 
was a high population in the late Byzantine period, with 
much more limited occupation in the Umayyad period 
and a decline in the Abbasid period 2 . However this 
evidence does not fit well with recent rural surveys and 
excavations which demonstrate significant agricultural 
settlement of many desert areas up to the end of the tenth 
century (see for example Avner and Magness 1998 and 
Haiman 1989). An important factor in this apparent 
contradiction is the way that research was carried out. On 
the whole the Negev cities were excavated in the early 
years of Israeli rule (i.e. 1948-70) either as part of 
research excavations or as part of a policy of making the 
sites accessible to the public. On the other hand the work 
outside the cities, in the rural and desert hinterlands, is 
primarily a result of more recent emergency survey work 
carried out during the 1980s and 1990s 3 . The difference 
in the results is therefore both a question of methodology 
and a refinement of techniques. The work in the cities 
was generally carried out with ready made theories about 
their origin and decline whilst the work in the open areas 
was carried out as rescue archaeology with fewer 
preconceptions. Similarly the techniques for dating 
ceramics and assessing coin evidence have considerably 
improved. In particular it is now recognised that 
Byzantine types of pottery continued to be produced well 
into the early Islamic period (see section on pottery). 

In the light of the above comments it can be seen that any 
conclusions about the fate of cities during the Islamic 
period are provisional and must await a re-investigation 
of the urban archaeology of the area (see for example 
Figueras 1994, 28 referring to recent excavations at 
Oboda/Avdat). However a few general observations can 
be made based on information currently available 
(detailed summaries of each site will follow in the next 
section). The first is that the towns were abandoned at 
different times over a period spanning several centuries. 
For example Kurnub/Mampsis, Oboda/Avdat and 
Khalasa/Elusa were probably abandoned before the 
Muslim conquest, perhaps as a result of the 631 
earthquake which affected the eastern Negev (cf Figueras 
1994, 283-5). The one Negev town where the Muslim 
conquest appears to have had a definite effect is 
Ruheiba/Rehovot. This is a large town of Nabatean origin 
which was largely unknown from contemporary 
documents. It seems to have been abandoned during the 
first fifty years of Muslim rule perhaps because its main 
economy, supplying the needs of pilgrims to Mount 

1 It should be noted thai at the end of the nineteenth century southern 
hktane was probably at its lowest level of population for thousands of 
jean (cf HBtteroth and Abdulfattah 1977. 54-63 and especially Fig.7). 

2 The population estimates given by most authors appear to be too high. 
Even the 'conservative' estimates given by Mayerson (1987, 235) and 
others seem larger than the evidence will justify. Using the same 
methods that 1 have adopted for medieval sites I would suggest the 
following figures Khalasa/Elusa 3500, Auja/Nessana 1800. 
Ruheiba/Rehovot 1200, Isbaita/Shivta 1 100, Kumub/Mampsis 500. 
* The Negev emergency surveys took place as a result of Israel's 
military withdrawal from the Sinai and subsequent redeployment in the 
Negev. The First surveys were carried out in 1978 and are ongoing. 


Andrew Petersen 

Table 4. Summary of Nesev Towns 


5 ,n centurv 

6 m century 

7 w centucv 

8 m century 

















































X = inhabited for most of the century concerned 

= no evidence of permanent occupation during the century 

? = possibility of occupation during this century 

Sinai, had collapsed. 

The remaining towns all have considerable evidence for 
occupation in the Umayyad period and later. The smallest 
of these Isbaita/Shivta was occupied until the ninth 
century at least (Figueras 1994, 282 questions this date 
but provides no plausible alternative). It is the only 
Negev town to contain the remains of a mosque which 
was apparently used at the same time as a church to 
which it was attached. Another town, usually ignored in 
discussions of die Negev, is Khirbat Futais/Pattish 
located to the North-West of Beersheba. Archaeological 
excavations have demonstrated extensive occupation 
from the Byzantine to the Fatimid period. Nessana (Auja 
Hafir) is the best documented site of the area with a range 
of administrative documents found in the church the 
latest dating to the late seventh century. It is generally 
assumed that the occupation of the site stopped shortly 
after the latest document (i.e. at the end of the Umayyad 
period) though recent work by Magness (2000) suggests 
that the town continued to function into the Abbasid 
period (i.e. post 750 AD). 

The largest towns, Beersheba and Aqaba, were located at 
die northern and southern extremes of the Negev. The 
administrative status of Beersheba in Byzantine times is a 
matter of some discussion though the presence of a 
Roman fort and fragments of inscriptions bearing 
imperial decrees suggests that it had some administrative 
role 4 . Unfortunately the Ottoman Turks destroyed most of 
the early remains before the First World War during the 
rebuilding of the town and most recent archaeology has 
taken place outside the presumed area of the early town. 
The results of archaeological excavations that have taken 
place indicate considerable continuity between the late 
Byzantine, Umayyad and Abbasid periods. More 
significantly 'a rather sumptuous villa* was built near the 
centre of the ancient town in the Umayyad period 
possibly representing the residence of an early Muslim 

Alt and Avi Yonah suggested that Beersheba was headquarters of the 
Roman limes although ii is now recognised that there is no evidence to 
support this claim or the suggestion that there was a bishop of 
Beersheba in the Byzantine period (cf Figueras 1994, 287). However 
this should not detract from the physical remains which clearly indicate 

ihflf fhic wnc ft pi *<->** c\f ctymtf importance. 

notable ('Amr ibn al-'As ?). Unfortunately without mow 
information from the early city centre it is not possible to 
ascertain the nature of occupation during this time thougi 
it is tempting to see the villa and bathhouse as formin| 
the centre of a large urban settlement. 

Whereas the archaeological evidence from Beersheba ii 
fragmentary the excavated remains at Aqaba provide 
clearest evidence for continuity and urban growth in 
early Muslim period. The prosperity of the city in 
Muslim period also appears to have had a signific 
effect on the hinterland thus, Avner and Magness (1998 
52) note that the area to die north of 'Aqaba thrh 
during the eighth and ninth centuries. 

2. Reasons for the Abandonment 

The older explanations of destruction by the Muslin 
Arabs as part of their initial wave of conquest have no« 
largely been abandoned in favour of more subtil 
explanations which see the depopulation of this area as i 
result of changes brought about by the change of regim 
and religion 5 . Explanations include the collapse of win 
production in the area as a result of Muslim attitudes W 
alcohol (Mayerson 1985, esp. 79), the lessening o 
Christian pilgrimages trade to Mount Sinai and th 
destructive effects of pastoral nomadism on the ecolog 
of the region. Whilst each of these explanations coul 
have been a factor in the desertion none of them 
entirely satisfactory. For example wine could have bee 
replaced by some other agricultural product and in an] 
case it is probable that the Muslims would not hav 
prevented Christian consumption of wine. Those who sefl 
the abandonment of the towns as a result of a decreasii 
number of Christian pilgrims need only look at account 
of Christian pilgrims from after the Muslim conquest t 
see thai pilgrims continued to travel to Sinai 
considerable numbers (cf Mayerson 1987, II). The thiol 
explanation which places the blame for the urban collapi 
on the infiltration of nomads into the area relies on ifa 

For a recent example see Figueras who stales "In summary . . . we coejfl 
say rhat despite its non-violent character the drastic change of regui 
must be seen as the real cause... for the quick decline and 

diaappuuaii<.i: uf |[icm: cuiiumiiiiiles' (1994, 292). 


The Towns of Palestine Under Muslim Rule 

old assumption of a conflict between the desert and the 
•own whereas more recent writers have tended to 
emphasise the degree of reciprocity between nomads, 
agriculturalists and urban dwellers . 

Another explanation which has received comparatively 

Mute attention is the question of climate change. It has 

been argued that the climate entered a wetter phase in the 

Byzantine and early Islamic period 7 . Although there is no 

icholariy consensus on the subject it is worth noting that 

even a minor change in the climate would have a drastic 

effect on the marginal land on which the agriculture of 

tk cities depended (MacDonald 2001, 598-9). Also it is 

worth noting that the fact of environmental change is not 

disputed but rather whether it was a cause or effect of 

other changes. 

If die climatic change was caused by human activity this 
oorid equally have been a result of over cultivation rather 
ten over-grazing. Indeed it is instructive to note the 
I ■ HcMon of the urban settlements near or just below the 
StOOmn isothete. It is also worth noting that there is 
••Beasive evidence for agricultural settlement further 
«Mh, well below the 1 00mm isothete, during the Islamic 
Ipcriod (Haiman 1990). The dating of these agricultural 
^■Kkments to the Islamic period is confirmed by the 
■ imence of mosques (Avni 1994). South of the 
' -'fcmsteads in the area below the 50mm. isothete, there is 
tlMiilrrnMr evidence for pastoral nomadism which is 
j 'probably contemporary with the agricultural settlements 
tnher north (i.e. also associated with mosques Avni 
i J»4; Rosen 1994). In other words there is a three tier 
i ; Mem of land utilization; in the north are the towns with 
*eir agricultural hinterlands, in the middle are smaller 
, ajrarkn villages and in the south are the pastoral nomads. 
: AI three of these zones were probably dependant on each 
tec so that a failure or imbalance in one of these areas 
jnkt have an impact on the others. During the 
r glywndne/Early Islamic period all three zones were 
Exploited to a maximum with the pressure coming from 
\ to towns and it seems likely that the area was not able to 
Kappori such intensive utilization without a major 
kwramunental impact. 

The Medieval Period 

j • 11k medieval period in the Negev is not a subject that has 
['■ceived much attention either archaeologically or 
[flteorically. The reasons for this are that all the urban 
■ tsaJemenss and most rural permanent settlements appear 
|Jto have ceased by the eleventh century. The one 
j'weption to this is Aqaba which continued to be 
Wnbited because of its strategic importance and trade 

with the east. There is also some evidence of proto-urban 
development in the desert to the south of Gaza which has 
been identified by Schaef&r. For example he notes that 
one site (Site No.83/1) dated to the Mamluk period 
covers an area of 5.5 hectares which is larger than the 
walled medieval town of Arsuf before its destruction 
(Schaefer 1989, 55 and 60). In general, however, the 
warfare of the eleventh-thirteenth centuries meant that the 
Negev became an area with a primarily nomadic 
population. By AD 1400 the climate had entered a dry 
phase making permanent settlement in the area even more 
unlikely (Ghawanmeh 1995). The towns on the edges (eg. 
Gaza, Hebron. Ramla and Aqaba and Kerak) functioning 
as exchange centres between Bedouin and settled 
population. It also seems likely that the Mamluks 
discouraged permanent settlement in the area as they had 
done on the Mediterranean coast in order to create a 
defensive no-man's land. In this context it should be 
remembered that the Crusaders had caused major 
disruption to the Hajj routes from their base at the head of 
the Gulf of Aqaba. Incidentally it is notable that Muslim 
pilgrimage routes from Palestine now followed the route 
to the east of the Wadi Araba via Karak and Shaubak 
rather than through the Negev (the town of Ayla shifted 
eastwards to its present site around the castle). On the 
other hand the Christian pilgrims travelled to Sinai via 


'Aqaba is located at the most southerly point of Palestine 
(Palestine Grid 149 883). Although present day 'Aqaba is 
located in the modern country of Jordan and the nearby 
town of Eilat is located in Israel historically the area has 
been considered as part of Palestine (see historical section 
below). The presence of a fresh water aquifer in an 
otherwise extremely arid area together with its strategic 
location have meant that some form of settlement has 
existed at 'Aqaba since the third millennium BC. 

The area available for settlement at the head of the Gulf 
of Aqaba is limited by the steep mountains to the West 
and East. The flat area between, which is in effect the bed 
of the 'Araba flood plain, is subject to inundations in the 
winters. The exact position of the main settlement has 
changed over time though it has always been located 
within a few hundred metres of the shore. 


The name Elath, which is of uncertain origin is the root of 
the modern Arabic name of 'Ayla 9 . The modern name 

'Examples f writere supporting the antagonistic view of nomad settled 
■felon see Mayerson (1986) and Parker (1986) and for those seeing a 
ritfrwttpof mutual benefit see Banning (1986) and Rosen (1994). 
' v Ybe evidence for climate change comes in the form of the widespread 
I mveBce of silts dated to between 1700 and 600 bp. The silts could 
ako have originated from deforestation or overgrazing and more 
taklKniJciil teal* arc required (Goldberg >°86 »*<> 1 00S> 

1 Historical references; al-Baladhuri. Ibn al- 'Asakir ed. al-Shihabi.XL, 
Tarajim al-Nisa, 220; Ibn lyas; al-Mas"udi, Maqrin, Khitat ed. 
Wiet,iii,228-35; al-Muqaddasi trans. Miguel 231; al-Musabbihi AUtbar 

' The earliest settlement in the vicinity is the Chalcolithic site of Tell 
Maquss excavated by Lutfi Khalil and dated to 3.500 BC. However the 
earliest settlement mentioned in historical sources is the Biblical site of 
Ezion-Geber which Nelson Glueck identifies with the archaeological 
site of Tell al-JChulayfa. However Practice (1993. 869-70), who 
excavated Tell al-Khulayfa in the 1980's more than tony years ann 

Andrew Petersen 

derives from the name 'aqabat 'Ayla or the pass of 'Ayla 
referring to the location of the medieval town at the 
entrance to the narrow pass between Jabal Umm Nusayla 
and the sea. Idrissi in the twelfth century was the first to 
refer to the town as 'Aqabat 'Ayla though others still 
referred to it as 'Ayla. By the time of Ibn lyas in the 
sixteenth century the town was simply referred to as 
'Aqaba 10 . 

In the first century AD Aila was the southern starting 
point of a road built by Trajan (98-117 AD) linking it 
with Bosra in Syria. In the fourth century AD Legio X 
Fretensis established a base at the site which became 
headquarters of the prefect. As early as 325 AD Aila was 
established as the seat of a bishopric (see below for 
archaeological evidence of early church). During the late 
sixth and early seventh centuries the town was within 
territory controlled by the Ghassanids. 

The history of the town during the early Islamic period is 
relatively well documented and we known the names of 
at least three bishops from the early seventh century". In 
630 the last of these bishops, Yuhanna ibn Ru'ba, 
travelled to Tabuk to meet Muhammad and arrange the 
surrender of the city to the Muslims. This event is 
recorded by several Arab historians including al Mas'udi 
(ed. de Goeje 272), al-Waqidi (ed. Jones, 1031), al-Tabari 
(ed Guidi I, 1702), Baladhuri (ed. de Goeje, 59) and Ibn 
Sa'd (ed. Sachau et al. I (2), 28-29). Schick (1995, 247) 
suggests that Yuhanna may have been a civil ruler rather 
than a bishop and that his identification as a bishop was 
'a literary topos, showing the Christian recognition of 
Muhammad.' However the fact that Yuhhana is referred 
to by a non-specific title such as malik (king) or sahib 
(ruler) by some of the Arab chroniclers may be a 
reference to his secular power rather than implying that 
he was not a bishop 12 . 

The terms of the peace treaty between Yuhanna and 
Muhhamad are recorded by a number of historians 
including al-Baladhuri (Futuh al-Buldan ed. de Goeje, 
59) who states that Yuhanna agreed to pay a poll tax of 
300 dinars at 1 dinar per adult. Schick (1995, 247) takes 
this as evidence that the adult population of the town had 
diminished to only 300 adults. Apart from the fact that 
the amount may be incorrectly reported it is likely that 
the amount specified refers only to male Christian adults 
(i.e. does not include women or those who were pagan or 
Jewish). According to al -Mas'udi the town had a 
significant Yemeni population al this time that was 
specifically allowed to continue to travel by sea. In any 

Glueck disputes the identification of Tell al-Khulayfa with either Ezion 

10 According to The Hans Wehr Dictionary of Modern Arabic {ed 
Cowan 1976, 626) 'aqaba is defined as a steep road or track, steep 
incline: pass mountain road. ' 

1 It has even been suggested that 'Ayla is the location of one of the 
events described in the Quran where fishermen are accused of breaking 
the Sabbath (Q7: 163-6). 

12 In any case it seems likely that a bishop would have had considerable 
civic responsibilities by this date as elsewhere in Syria and North 

case recent archaeological work clearly suggests a 
population greater than 300 adults in the early seventh 
century (see archaeology below). 

Under the Umayyads the poll tax payable by ihe 
Christians was increased though it was later reduced by 
order of the caliph 'Umar II. Other historical references 
clearly indicate that this was an important city in the early 
Islamic period; thus Qays ibn Sa'd, the newly appointed 
governor of Egypt, passed through in 656. Sometime 
between 661 and 674 a force of 200 men was recruited 
from the city to serve as police for the governor of 
Medina. Later, between 685 and 686, Muhammad ibn al- 
Hanafiya settled in the city with a following of 7,000 men 
(Ibn Sa'd ed. Sachau et al, 79). 

During the Umayyad period the town had a large number 
of mawali (i.e. client converts) who were responsible for 
helping Muslim pilgrims en route for Mecca. The mawali 
built up a reputation for their theological and legal 
knowledge so that the city became known as an j 
intellectual centre. The importance of the city during this 
period is further demonstrated by a number of Arabic 
inscriptions (both Muslim and Christian) from Rehovot 
and the Sinai which mention the name Ayla as their place 
of origin (Sharon 1993). Some details of daily life during 
this period are known; thus Ibn 'Asakir relates that in the 
latter part of the seventh century Aban ibn Sa'id ibn al- 
'As settled in Ayla because he liked its low prices and its 
peaceful atmosphere ( Ibn al-*Asakir ed. al-Shihabi, XL, 
Tarajim al-Nisa, 220). Although it is possible that the 
mawali fell out of favour in the Abbasid period and may 
have been persecuted there is no evidence of a decline in 
the intellectual status of the city which remained a centre 
of Muslim theology into the eleventh century (for 
intellectual life in Ayla see Gill 1992,175-178 443-452, 
636). However it does seem likely that the Christian 
population had been reduced by this time and the only 
non- Muslims mentioned are Jewish (cf Schick 1995 and 
Gil 1992). 

The strategic position of the town and its location on the 
pilgrimage route meant that strong central control was 
exercised to keep it under the control of the Abbasids . In 
809 the city was at the centre of a rebellion against the 
Abbasids led by Abu al-Nida. The origin of the rebellion 
was connected with an increase in the rate of the kharaj 
(i.e.non-Muslim land tax) indicating that the city (or 
district) still contained a large number of non-Muslims. 
The rebels took control of the 'Araba area and made an 
alliance with the Banu Judham, a local tribe. Eventually 
the revolt was crushed by an army sent from Iraq with 
additional forces from Egypt and the leader Abu al-Niaa 
was taken and executed on the orders of the caliph Harun 
al-Rashid (Gill 1992, 410). 

The continued importance of the site in the ninth century 
is demonstrated by al- Ya'qubi 's comment that '...the 
city of Ayla is a great city on the shore of the Salt Sea, 
and in it gather the pilgrims of Syria. Egypt and the 
Maghreb. There are numerous common people...'. Also 


a the ninth century (sometime around the year 860) the 
mountain pass near the town was widened to facilitate the 
passage of Muslim pilgrims. The work was undertaken 
by Fa'kj on behalf of Khumarawayh ibn Ahmad ibn 
Tttlun (884-95) and allowed pilgrims to travel this part of 
ft* road mounted rather than on foot (Gill 1992, 313; 
Maqrizi, Khitat ed. Wiet, iii, 228-35). 

Uader the Fatiraids the town continued to prosper as is 
Mtemcd by al-Muqaddasi who gave the following 
tocriptioii (circa 985) 

'Aad Wayla is a city on a branch of the China Sea. Great 
» prosperity with its palms and fish, it is the port of 
Marine, the storehouse of the Hijaz...' (al-Muqaddasi 

Mo doubt the prosperity was partly based on the pilgrim 

Mffic which could result in great profits for the local 

■mJunts as in 1024 when according to al-Musabbihi 

! PWXX) Khurrasani pilgrims passed through the town 

I |Gl992, 582-3, al-Musahbihi Akhbar Misr. 34) 

tfaqaddasi also discussed Ayla's position between 
Bgypt, Syria and the Hijaz stating; 

\.. in Wayla, there is a disagreement among the people 
if Syria, the Hijaz and Egypt, like in Abbadan, but I join 
M to Syria because its customs and measures are Syrian. It 
h me port of Palestine from which comes its imported 
foods' (al-Muqaddasi trans Miquel 231). 

Nevertheless the isolated position of Aqaba made it 
idnerabte to attack particularly from local tribesmen. 
Thus in 981/2 it was the scene of a battle between the 
Fitiraids and Bedouin where the Fatimids were 
fccaiveiy defeated (Gill 1992, 559). Other accounts 
sadkate that this was not an isolated event; thus in 1025 
«e Egyptian pilgrims to Mecca could not continue 
because the town was subject to tribal attacks (Gill 1992, 
391). In addition to these man made disasters there were 
abo natural events such as earthquakes. The most 
damaging event was an earthquake on 1$* March 1068 
which destroyed the city, according to the contemporary 
Abu Ali Hassan b.Ahmad al-Banna who heard of the 
event while he was in Baghdad (Gil 1992, 602 no.60). 

The historical information for the latter part of the 
eleventh and early twelfth century is scarce and 
confusing. Thus it is not known whether the area was 
wder Fatimid or Seljuk control and the only available 
evidence is problematic (cf. Schick 1997, 77). For 
example a document dated 1 134 purporting to come from 
the Fatimid caliph al-Hafiz orders the governor of Ayla to 
respect the rights of the monks of St.Catherine's 
Monastery in Sinai (Stern 1964, 46). The document may 
be genuine though it is also possible that it was forged by 
the monks to support their claims (as suggested by Schick 
1997,77). Another piece of evidence suggesting Faumid 
control of the city at this time is a coin dated 514 AH 
(1120-21 AD) published by Lavoix (1896, 161-2). 

The Towns of Palestine Under Muslim Rule 

However as Schick (1997, 305) point out this date is after 
Baldwin's raid on Aqaba and in any case 'the 
questionable reeding of 'Aqaba as the mint should be 

It is generally assumed that the history of the town in the 
Crusader period is well known; thus Schick (1997, 78) 
states * the historical information available about southern 
Jordan increases greatly with the arrival of the 
Crusaders'. However the presence of the Crusaders at 
'Aqaba has been a matter of some dispute and confusion. 
A few main facts are well established and have been 
summarised by Pringle (2001). In 1116-17 Baldwin I 
King of Jerusalem (and formerly Count of Flanders) led 
an armed expedition to Ayla which then remained under 
indirect Prankish control until 1 170 when it was captured 
by Saladin. The town was briefly recaptured by the 
Franks in 1182-3 under the leadership -of the notorious 
Reynald de ChStillon, Lord of Karak, who attempted to 
establish the site as a Prankish naval base. These events 
have led scholars to suggest that a Crusader castle was 
established at Ayla from as early as 1 1 16-17 (see also Ibn 
Jubayr trans Broadhurst 67). However, as Pringle points, 
out there is no evidence of a casde being established at 
the site before the reign of King Fulk (1131-43) . The 
Frankish presence at Ayla was terminated by Husam al- 
Din Lu'lu' who defeated Reynauld de Chatillion in 1183 
(see archaeology below for possible location of castle). 

By me late thirteenth century the town appears to have 
been greatly reduced in size. Abu al-Fida (1273-1332) 
states that in his time the castle by the shore was all that 
remained of the town, though he also notes that this was 
the residence of the Egyptian governor suggesting 
something more than a simple fortress. There was 
evidently still some settlement in the middle of the 
thirteenth century when the town was visited by Ibn 
Battuta (1304-77) who referred to it as 'Aqabat 'Ayla 
(trans Gibb 1958,159 n.14). There is very little historical 
information for the remainder of the Mamluk period with 
the exception of the early sixteenth century when it 
became established as a base for activities against the 
Portuguese in the Red Sea. According to the sixteenth 
century Egyptian historian Ibn Iyas the architect/builder 
(al-mVmar) Khayr Bay al-'Ala'i was sent to 'Aqaba hy 
Sultan Qansuh al-Ghawri where he built 'caravanserais 
(khans), warehouses (hawastf), and towers... and paved 
the road leading to the harbour'. The same person was 
also charged with finding suitable metal for casting 
cannon and sent stones containing copper ore 
(presumably from the vicinity of 'Aqaba) to the Sultan. 
Ibn lyas also notes that the same Sultan established a 
Mamluk garrison at 'Aqaba which was to be relieved 
once a year (Ibn Iyas IV, 511-2 cited in Ayalon 
1956,1 13,n. 18 and Glidden 1952,1 18). With the transfer 
to Ottoman rule after 1516 'Aqaba remained an important 
if dangerous point on the Egyptian pilgrimage route to 
Mecca. Thus al-Jaziri reports that pilgrims near 'Aqaba 
would suffer surprise attacks from Bedouin (Banu 
'Atiyya) who would swim with their swords in the bay. 
In general the Bedouin were controlled with payments of 


Andrew Petersen 

cash and cloth. Sometimes, however, payments were 
reduced which caused increased attacks which were 
severely dealt with by the Ottoman authorities. Thus in 
1545 after a retaliatory raid against the Banu 'Atiyaa 
seventy of their women and children were imprisoned in 
'Aqaba(Bakhit 1982, 224). 


Until the discovery of Islamic 'Ayla. by Donald 
Whitcomb in 1986 very little was known about the 
historic period archaeology of the town (sec Figs. 30 and 
31) 14 . For example in 1967 Lancaster Harding wrote; 

'Of the later towns there are no visible remains: they are 
hidden under the sand dunes and mounds and covered by 
various military and commercial installations. 
Occasionally some piece of evidence comes to light in the 
form of sherds or carved stones, and piecing all this 
together it is possible to say that it continued to be a 
moderately flourishing town up to the time of Islam.' 
(1967, 143-4) 

The above statement has been proved to be partially true 
though of course the implication that the town ceased to 
flourish with the advent of Islam is neither corroborated 
by the historical sources cited above nor the 
archaeological evidence to be discussed below. Ironically 
it is the remains of the Byzantine and Roman period 
which have proved harder to locate and are only now 
beginning to be uncovered by the Roman ' Aqaba project. 

11 Archaeological references to Ayla/ Aqaba Ahmar 1997: Avner 1996; 
Avner 1998; Avner and Magness 1998; Ayalon 1956; Bakhit 1982 
Burton 1879.L 240-1; De Meulemeester and Pringlc 2001; Rank 934 
Gilat et al 1993: Gil 1992, 313,391,410,559, 582-3. 602; Harding 1967 
14*4; Hoher and Avner 2000: Laborde ????; Lavoix 1896. 161-2 
Meloy 1991; Musil 1926, 81-7; Parker 1995; Parker 1997; Parker 2000 
Practico 1993. 869-70; Pringle 2001; Rapuano 1994; Rothenberg 1972 
224-228- Schick 1995, 246-9; Schick 1997; Shaw and Rothenberg 2000: 
Son 1964, 46; Tamari and Hashimshoni 1973; Woolley and Lawrence 

1917, 128-30. ,._.. 

14 One of the first modem European travellers to record his impressions 
of the town was Leon de Laborde who visited the site in 1828 followed 
twenty years later by Richard Burton (1879,1240-1). In the early 
twentieth century the town was visited by the Cach anthropologist 
Alois Musil (Musit 1926. 81-7) and a few years later by Wooley and 
Lawrence (1917. 128-30). The first serious archaeological excavations 
carried out by Oueck in the 1930's focused on Tell al-Khulayfa 
(Gtueck 1993). However there had been no archaeological excavations 
or surveys in the town itself with the exception of the Mamluk 
casde/khan. However there was an awareness that earlier remains 
existed in the vicinity of me present town. For example Glidden (El 
AYLA. 783) commented on the four Byzantine capitals seen in the 
customs house before 1940 which were said to have come from a 

church. ... r * 

In 1986 an excavation by Whitcomb revealed the remains or a 
settlement dating to the early Islamic period. Subsequent excavations 
revealed a large walled serderneitt identified as the remains of early 
Islamic- Ayla. These excavations continued into the early 1990's when a 
new project was directed by Tom Parker uncovered remains of the 
Roman and Byzantine period. In 2000 a team from Belgium and Cardiff 
began the archaeological investigation of the Mamluk forVkhan (Prmgle 
2001) In addition to the excavations and surveys in Jordan a series of 
excavations and surveys around the Israeli settlement of EiUu have 
revealed consiaetabie evidence Sin die eaily falnraio ponod. 

Roman and Bynurttae Mod 

The main Roman Byzantine site is located due North of 
the Early Islamic town though the full extent has yet to be 
determined. The geographer al-Muqaddisi noted these 
remains as early as the tenth century when in his 
description of the Islamic town he states The people call 
it Ayla, but the ruins of freal] Ayla are nearby'. These 
remains had mostly disappeared by the early twentieth 
century though a few stray finds such as the four 
Byzantine capitals stored in the Customs House in 1940 
testified to the existence of the Roman and Byzantine city 
(Glidden El AYLA, 783). Sunfiarly Glueck's observation 
of 'a Byzantine church now buried under modern gardens 
along the shore' indicated that more may be hidden 
beneath the sand (Glueck 1934,10). More recently during 
the excavation of Islamic Ayla a fragmentary Latin 
inscription was found which appears to date from the 
time of Constantine and the time when the Tenth Legion 
Fretensis was transferred to Ailana from Jerusalem 
(Whitcomb 1988.23; MacAdam, H.I. 1989 : Whitcomb 
1991, 130 Plate XI). 

The first serious investigation of the Roman and 
Byzantine periods began with a survey of West 'Aqaba 
(i.e. the area between the remains of Islamic Ayla) carried 
out by John Meloy in 1990 which identified seventeen 
sites with Nabatean to Early Islamic material (Meloy 
1991). This survey formed the basis for the continuing 
excavations carried out by the Roman 'Aqaba Project 
(Parker 1995, 1997 and 1999). The most impressive 
result of these excavations was the discovery of the city 
wall which was built in stone and dated to the early: 
Byzantine period (Parker 1995, 522). The wall included 
three projecting rectangular towers and was traced for a 
distance of over 120 metres. In addition to the rectangular j 
towers on the north side of the wall 'two elliptical roudj 
brick towers connected by a mud brick wall.. .on stone 
foundations' were added in the sixth century (Parker 1 

To the north of the wall there was a cemetery also of La* 
Roman to early Byzantine date with mud-brick vaulted! 
tombs. To the south of the city wall there was a domesticj 
area with occupation from the third to tenth centuries.1 
Confirmation of the identity of the site was provided by aj 
fragmentary inscription bearing the name AILA (Parker! 
1999). One of the most significant finds was a large mud-J 
brick structure of two storeys which was overbuilt by * 
city wall in the late fourth or early fifth century. " 
excavators believe that the building was a chu 
constructed in the late third or early fourth century / 
Although this is an extremely early date for a church 
orientation and design of the building are consistent * 
an early church and are supported by the historic! 
evidence which notes a bishop of 'Ayla in 325 
(Parker 1995, 1997, 1999 and 2000). 


The Towns of Palestine Under Muslim Rule 

Early Islamic Period (7*-12* Centuries) 

Early Islamic remains are found in a number of locations 
around the head of the Gulf of Aqaba (i.e. both in Jordan 
and Israel). The main site, is located on the sea front 
nearly 1 kilometre north of the Mamluk Khan/Fort and is 
now bisected by a Wadi. 

While the investigation of Roman Ayla is still in progress 
the investigation of the early Islamic city has been more 
or less been completed. The excavation of the Islamic 
city began in 1986 and was substantially completed by 
1994 (Khouri and Whitcomb 1988: Whitcomb 1990: 
Whitcomb 1991. 1994) although a single season was 
carried out in 2000 to investigate a specific problem 
(Parker 2000,5 and see below). 

The remains uncovered by the excavations comprise a 
rectangular enclosure aligned NE-SW enclosing an area 
120 x 160 metres with round corner towers and projecting 
semi-elliptical interval towers (Fig. 31). Four gateways 
lead to a central space where, in the earliest phase of the 
she, there was an arched pavilion resembling a classical 
letrapylon. The stratigraphy and finds from the site 
indicate occupation starting before the Umayyad Period 
(probably just after the Muslim conquest Whitcomb 
1995, 130) and continuing up to the early twelfth 


In view of the early date proposed for the site (i.e. pre- 
Umayyad Islamic) the site represents the earliest known 
extant example of Muslim town planning. Specifically 
Islamic features of the site include parts of a monumental 
Kufic inscription found in blocks in front of the north- 
west gate (called Bab al-Misr by the excavator). 
Although not complete the fragments have been shown to 
be a verse from the Qur'an, Ayat al-kursi (II, 255). 
Although not in situ it is likely that the inscription was 
originally set above the gateway informing those arriving 
that this was part of the Muslim commonwealth 
(Whitcomb 1991, 126-7. Fig.3 and PI. 12 A). The other 
specifically Muslim feature is the congregational mosque 
(Area F) which occupies a significant proportion of the 

M The pre-Umayyad dale, combined with the finding of the Latin 
laacription, have led some scholars to suggest that the remains are those 
of Dtoceltian's Legionary camp (see for example Knauf and Brooker 
1988). This suggestion prompted a vigorous response from Whitcomb 
(1990:1995, 278 n.12) who was convinced thai the site was an eariy 
«lw(camp) on the model of those at Fustat, Basra, Kufa and Wasit. He 
oaceded that ihe plan of ihe remains bore some similarity to legionary 
farowses and mat the towers at 'Aqaba were of hollow construction 
■Mix the solid towers found at other similar Islamic sites, nevertheless 
he rejected a Roman attribution on the basis that no Roman levels were 
■corded beneath those of the Late Byzantine/Early Islamic layers. 
However Whitcomb was not able to provide a definitive rejection of the 
loaaa camp hypothesis until 2000, when, as part of the Roman 'Aqaba 
poject be made a deep sounding against the walls. The brief report on 
tie sounding slates; 

fjace the wall was articulated, a pump was employed to permit 
OKavatioo below the water table. Pottery from soil layers against the 
■nth face of the masonry foundation and from a soil layer extending 
mt uutSk ihe foundations dated to the 7" century, confirming 
Wfeheomb's date for the foundation of Eariy Islamic Ayla." (Parker 

north-east quadrant of the walled area. The identity of 
this structure as a mosque was only confirmed in 1993 as 
the area had previously been referred to as the 'Large 
Enclosure' (Whitcomb 1995, 278, n.U). During the 
Abbasid period (750-1000) the mosque was built over the 
north-east axial street, though in earlier times it appears 
to have been smaller. 

There is considerable evidence for change over the 450 
years of occupation. For example the arched pavilion at 
the centre of the enclosure was built over in the Mate 
Abbasid/Fatimid period (950-1000 A.D.)' and a luxurious 
residential building complete with iwans. A central pool 
and frescos was built on the site (Whitcomb 1991, 126). 
Other buildings of the same period were built of mud 
brick and were less impressive thus Whitcomb (1991, 
126) stales "Here the structures were entirely of mud 
brick, and the courtyards featured numerous tabun-s or 
ovens. The impression is one of growing 
impoverishment, perhaps a widening gap between rich 
and poor, under the Fatimids and just prior to the 
abandonment forced by the Crusaders.' 

The second major concentration of Early Islamic material 
is in West 'Aqaba within the area covered by the Roman 
'Aqaba project (Fig. 30). The evidence from these 
excavations indicates considerable continuity from the 2 
to the 3 rd centuries, thus a recent report states: 
'Substantial stone and mudbrick structures of the 
Umayyad period laid out along a street running north-east 
to southwest, were found under Abbasid domestic 
structures. The street follows the plan of the earlier 
Byzantine city.... The deep Umayyad and Abbasid strata 
suggest that Byzantine Aila witnessed continued 
intensive occupation well into the Early Islamic period.' 
(Parker 1999, 513). 

In addition to the excavated areas surveys have revealed 
several areas of activity dated to the Early Islamic period. 
Thus Meloy's survey found three early Islamic sites 
including the remains of a seventh century pottery kiln 
(Ml 3) to the North of the Early Islamic city and to the 
east of the Roman Byzantine city (see also Wheatley 
2001: 325-6 esp. Fig 26). 

Another area where early Islamic material was recovered 
was beneath the late Mamluk fort approximately 1 
kilometre south of the main early Islamic site. The 
remains were described by the excavators as follows 'The 
first trench... revealed an early wall, one metre wide, 
which ran at right angles below the north range [of the 
Mamluk fort]. Associated with it was ninth to eleventh 
century pottery similar to that recovered in 1999 (De 
Meulemeester and Pringle 2001). 

Further finds of Early Islamic material have been made 
outside the immediate environs of the modern town of 
'Aqaba, within the present day territory of Israel. The 
most significant group of remains is a large dispersed 
settlement or settlements located to the north of the 
modem town of Eilat and excavated between 1973 and 


Andrew Petersen 

1993 (Rapuano 1994: Avner 1996: Aviter 1998). The 
buildings comprises small rooms opening off rectangular 
courtyards. The rooms had mud brick walls resting on 
foundations or rubble stones laid in rough courses and set 
in mud mortar. The excavators suggest the roofs were 
made of branches or tent fabric. The floors of the rooms 
were of beaten earth and in some cases there two or three 
layers suggesting continued use over a long period. In 
addition to the houses a number of stone enclosures were 
uncovered which the excavators interpreted to be the base 
of tents. Burials including grave goods dated to the 
Abbasid period were found under the floors of some of 
the rooms. In addition to the domestic structures there 
were a number of installations including pebble lined pits, 
clay ovens and in one case a clay oven was set into a 
pebble platform containing copper slag. Finds from the 
site included coarse cream-coloured Mahesh ware, dated 
by Whitcomb (1989) to the late Umayyad and early 
Abbasid period, soft-stone vessels (chlorite schist), lead- 
glazed relief ware and copper slags. As might be 
expected environmental sampling recovered plentiful fish 
remains from both coastal waters and the open sea. A 
series of six C u samples were taken most of which gave 
calendar dates within the range of 600 - 768 AD though 
one gave a later date (see Medieval section below). 
Although this site is located more than five kilometres 
from the main Islamic settlement of Ayla the lack of any 
other major settlements in the area suggests that it was 
part of the same urban region. 

Medieval Period (1100-1600) 

Archaeological evidence for the medieval period is more 
scanty and more widely dispersed than for the early 
Islamic period. The principal remains are the Mamluk 
khan/fort located next to the shore approximately one 
kilometre south of the site of Early Islamic Ayla. The 
date of this building is as problematic, as is its function. 
Two inscriptions within the entrance give two dates, the 
first and largest inscription refers to its construction 
during the reign of the Mamluk Sultan Qansuh al-Ghawri 
(i.e. 1500-1 5 16)(Glidden 1952). The second inscription 
records the reconstruction of the castle by Sultan Murad 
III (1574-95 AD) (Khouri and Whitcomb 1988). The 
architecture of the building indicates several subsequent 
re-buildings though there is little to indicate any 
structures earlier than the present sixteenth century 
building with the exception of the early Islamic wall 
discovered in recent excavations (see above). The area in 
the vicinity of the castle was the centre of the settlement 
until the mid- twentieth century and it seems reasonable 
to suggest that this was the location of the post Crusader 
town although this has yet to be confirmed by 

Other evidence of Mamluk occupation in the vicinity 
includes a Mamluk campsite five kilometres west of Eilat 
(Holzer and Avner 2000), at least part of the Early 
Islamic village (Eilat/Elot) north of modern Eilat appears 
to have been re-used in the Mamluk/early Ottoman period 
according tn finds (e.g. a fourteenth century bracelet) and 

a C 14 date of 1514-1654 AD sealed between floors 

(Avner 1998). More prestigious remains include the rock 
cut pass 'Aqabat al 'Urqub dated to the reign of Sultan 
Qansuh al-Ghawri (Tamari and Hashtmshoni 1973) and 
the fortress on Jazirat al-Fara'un which should probably 
be dated to the twelfth century (De Meulemeester and 
Pringle 2001). 


A few observations and questions emerge from this 
review of the archaeology and history of 'Aqaba. The 
first and most notable feature is that the Early Islamic 
period appears to represent the most intensive and 
extensive period of settlement before modem times. 
Although, to some extent, this is reflected in the historical 
literature neither the nature nor the extent of early Islamic 
settlement was known before the archaeological work of 
the last fifteen years. The results of excavation and 
survey work show that there was intensive settlement on 
the western side of the modern town of 'Aqaba and 
dispersed settlement in the neighbouring region of Eilat ( 
see Avner and Magness 1998 for a discussion of the 
archaeology of the 'Aqaba/Ayla region in the first 
centuries of Islam). 

The second observation is that medieval occupation 
(1 100-1600) including the period of Crusader occupation 
is not well documented in the archaeological record. The 
remains that are known are diffused over a wide area and 
represented by specific monuments or sites (eg. tbei 
Mamluk Fortified Khan, the rock cut pass or the casUe on 
Jazirat Fara'un). To some extent this situation is reflected 
in the historical sources which give little information! 
about the medieval period and generally state that the j 
town was in a dilapidated condition thus; Abu al-Fidaj 
(1273-1332) state that in his time nothing was left of the j 
town except the stronghold near the shore ( Twakim 86-7 
cited in Glidden. "Ayla 784). Nevertheless the lack of] 
identifiable Crusader remains and the small quantities of 
information about the late Mamluk period (i.e. late j 
fifteenth and early sixteenth century) suggest that some of J 
the archaeology has yet to be discovered or has been] 
destroyed by modern development in both Eilat and] 
'Aqaba. For instance it seem likely that thej 
Mamluk/fort/khan was a focus for settlement in the latsj 
Mamluk period though no archaeological work has beenj 
carried out in the vicinity. At this point it is worth bearingj 
in mind Donald Whitcomb's observation about Early j 
Islamic Ayla where he states 'the current excavatiomj 
have revealed city walls, now cleared over 4 metres < 
and 2m wide, which had left absolutely no trace on lhe\ 
surface' (Whitcomb 1995, 278, 12). 

A number of other archaeological problems have still 
be resolved, thus the location of the legionary fortress I 
the Tenth Legion Fretensis has still to be located (U 
walls found by the Roman Aqaba project are not 
present regarded as those of a legionary fortress but ratf 
those of the city cf. Parker 2000). 


The Towns of Palestine Under Muslim Rule 




Secular public 




Table 5 'Agaba/AvU Snnmmn 

Early Islamic 


A( > 10 ha.) 





A= Archaeological Evidence, Historical Evidence 

Another question of more general relevance is whether 
the remains excavated by Whitcomb should be classed as 
a town or a Muslim Arab camp (misr) attached to a pre- 
existing town or both. Certainly the size of the walled 
enclosure (Early Islamic Ayla) excavated by Whitcomb is 
amte small, thus it is comparable in size to the Umayyad 
desert palace of Mshatta and less than half the size of 
'Anjar however the layout of the interior appears to be 
more like 'Anjar. 

A final question concerns the economy of Aqaba/ Ayla. 
Clearly the town derived increased importance from its 
rote on the Egyptian Hajj/ pilgrimage route. In addition 
the remains at Elat-Elot indicate that copper production 
was taking place in the Early Islamic and in the Mamluk 
periods {see also discussion of Mamluk copper and iron 
working in the area in Rothenberg 1972, 224-228). There 
tas also been a suggestion that the area was used for Gold 
mining although this remains to be substantiated (see for 
example Gilat et al 1993 and Ahmar 1997 which propose 
a gold production centre in the area and Shaw and 
Rothenberg 2000 who are extremely sceptical of such 


This site is located in the central Negev 63 km. south of 
Bcersheba (Palestine Grid 1278 0228) (Fig. 29). It stands 
on an elevated site overlooking Wadi al-Hammam and 
comprises a large fortified settlement with a Roman 
military camp to the north-east. The main settlement 
stands on the edge of an escarpment overlooking the 
Wadi to the south. The site owes its existence to its 
location on the main caravan route from Ayla to Gaza. 

The focus of most research at Avdat has been to obtain an 
understanding of the site in the Nabatean period (see for 
example Negev 1993, 1 163 where he writes of the 'quest 
for the Nabatean sacred compound'). The major 
development of the early Roman period was the 
construction of a residential quarter to the south-east of 
Ae Nabatean acropolis. In 363 AD the town was struck 
by an earthquake that caused considerable damage to the 
acropolis and probably ended the occupation of the 
residential quarter. Following the earthquake the 

acropolis was repaired and remodelled. A fortress was 
established in the north-east and die south-western part 
was developed as an ecclesiastical complex with two 

According to the excavator the North Church with one 

apse was built between the mid fourth and mid fifth 

century whilst the south church with three apses was built 

in 450 AD. The South church contains a number of 

burials dated by inscription. The earliest burial is dated to 

541 and the latest is dated to 618. According to Negev 

'the South Church... was set on fire apparently in 636, 

during the Arab conquest. Half burned wooden beams of 

the roof were found on the floor' (Negev 1993e, 1 163). 

Following the destruction there was some re-building 

with small rooms built on the remains of the colonnade. 

The North Church was also destroyed by fire with the 

charred remains of beams overlying the chancel. After the 

fire the area was used as a sheepfold (Negev 1993e, 

1163).The fortress also contained a church which was 

apparently built after the destruction of the other churches 

as there was no trace of a fire and it incorporated re-used 

stones. The implication is that it may belong to the early 

Islamic period or that the destruction predates the Arab 


A series of caves cut into the escarpment beneath the 
acropolis are interpreted by Negev as a Byzantine 
residential area though they could equally have been 
housing for pilgrims of coenobitic monks. One of the 
caves contains an un-deciphered Kufic inscription which 
demonstrates an early Islamic presence at the site. Below 
the acropolis, near Wadi Hammam, there is a bathhouse 
which has also been dated to the Byzantine period (Negev 
I993e). Unfortunately no details are given for dating the 
bath house although its design is similar to the Umayyad 
bath houses at Qusayr Amra and Hammam al-Sarah and 
it is tempting to date it to the same period. 


Despite the large amount of archaeological field-work 
which has taken place at Avdat and the considerable 
number of publications (for a bibliography see Negev 
1997) the archaeology of the site is still not well known 


Andrew Pettrstn 




Secular public 




A (5 ha.) 

Table 6 Oboda/Avdat Summary 

Early Islamic 



Earty Ottoman 

A= Archaeological Evidence, H= Historical Evidence 

so that any conclusions must be tentative (cf Graf 2000). 
There are considerable differences of opinion concerning 
the destruction of Avdat in the sixth century. According 
to Gutwein (1981) the city was sacked by Persian forces 
during an invasion of Egypt sometime between AD 614 
and AD 629. Negev (1993e) attributes the destruction to 
the Muslim conquests (see above South Church) whilst 
Schick (1995, 254-5) suggests that destruction was a 
result of the 633 AD earthquake. On the basis of the 
available information it is not possible to choose between 
these suggestions though in general it is clear that the 
settlement did not survive much beyond the early seventh 
century. In any case it is questionable whether the site 
should be considered as urban, even in the Byzantine 

Beersheba (Appendix 1, Table 1) 

This large ancient site is located in the northern Negev 
approximately equidistant between the Mediterranean and 
the Dead Sea (Palestine Grid 1 30 072) 16 . The modern city 
was established by the Ottoman Turks in 1900 as an 
administrative and military centre to safeguard the area 
from invasion from Egypt. Since the First World War the 
city has rapidly developed so that it now covers an area of 
approximately 25 square kilometres (Kedar 1999, 46-9). 
The ancient (pre-Roman) settlement was located at Tel 
Beersheba located approximately five kilometres east of 
the centre of the modern city (see below). The late 
Roman, Byzantine and early Islamic city was located near 
the core of the modern city established by the Ottomans 
and it is probable that the earlier remains were re-used in 
the Ottoman constructions. 

Historical references clearly indicate that Beersheba was 
a town of some importance in the late Roman and 
Byzantine periods; thus the Notitia Dignitatum states that 
a cohort of Equites Dalmatae Illyricani were housed here 

14 Abel 1903: Avi Yonah 1954: Cohen 1968 : Cohen 1972: Dauphin 
1998 959-60: Ein-Gedy and Masawah 1999: Fabian 1995: Fabian & 
Rabin 1996: Frilz 1973: Gihon 1969:0>lead et al 1993: Govrin 1990 
:Govrin 1991: Herzog 1993, 173: Dan 1980: Israeli 1967: Israeli 1968: 
KaK 1993: Kau and May 1998 : Kedar 1999. 46-9 : Kennedy and Riley 
1990: Negev 1993 : Negev 1994 : Ovadiah and Gomez de Silva 1981, 
207-8 : Shimron-Vadaei 1999 : Nahshoni el al 1993: Uslinova and 
Nahshoni !994:Ustinova and Figueras 1996: Varga 2000. 

and in the fourth century. Eusebius {Onomasticon, 111) 
described Beersheba as headquarters of a military unit. A 
number of imperial tax decrees and official tombstones 
found in Beersheba (Alt 192), 4-13) and elsewhere 
confirm the importance of the place (though Beersheba] 
itself is not mentioned) as does the depiction of the tow* 
on the sixth century Madaba map (Avi-Yonah 1954: j 
Donner 1992, 70) 17 . Compared with the considerable j 
epigraphic and documentary evidence for Bcershebtj 
before the Arab conquest there is very little mention of I 
the city in sources from the Islamic period although wheal 
it is mentioned it appears to be the private estate of 4 AnrJ 
ibnal-'As 18 . 

There have been more than twenty regist 
archaeological excavations within the municipality 
Beersheba that have recovered remains of the Ron 
period and later (see Figs.32 and 33). The excavatic 
may be divided into four groups: i) those carried out l 
Tel Beersheba, ii) those carried out to the north of " 
modern city iii) those carried out near the City Centre i 
within the Ottoman 'Old City* and iv) excavations to 
south and west of the 'Old City'. 

1. Tel Beersheba 

The remains on Tel Beersheba (134 072) bek 
principally to the Iron Age and earlier though there 
also significant remains from the Roman and Byzant 
periods including a fort on the summit and 
foundations of a large church lower down to the east. ' 
date of the fort is problematic (Fritz 1973; Kennedy 
Riley 1990) though the other remains have been datr 
the mid-sixth century on the basis of coins 
inscriptions (Dauphin 1998, 960). Between the eighth i 

" There is, however, no evidence thai Beersheba was headquarters ( 
the Roman limes or that it had a bishop in the Byzantine period <*~" 
its evident importance {see Figureas 1 994. 287). 
'* Al-Bakri {Kilab al-masalik wa al-mamalik ed. de Slane, D, 
writing in the eleventh century describes Bir al-Saba as 'the ' 
•Amr ibn al-' As of Palestine, in Syria. There live some of his 
The thirteenth century writer Yaqut (Mm 'jam al- Udaba ed. Ma 
III, 34) describes il as follows ' Al-Saba is a region in 
between Bayt al-Maqdis and al-Karak. There are seven wells^ 
which the site bears its name. This is the property of "Amr iba f ' 
mere he lived, after tits [ciiienicni &oo» public life*. 


me ic/tv/is uj rutMiirte wmn i«wa»u» i 

to ninth centuries the fort was re-used as a way-station 
before being finally abandoned (Herzog 1993, 173). 

1 ferae* the City. 

The area to the north of the modern city has been the 
location of a number of excavations carried out in 
advance of development work. As early as 1968 Cohen 
excavated three Areas in Shikun Dalet (No.l, 1315 0741), 
• aaburb in the north part of the modern city. In Area A 
Hj fr tombs were discovered; in area B there were two 
af.mii i one with a square room with pottery on the 
finr and in Area C there was a house with six rooms one 
if which contained a pottery kiln (Cohen 1968). Three 
'wan later in 1971 Cohen excavated an area five hundred 
mtm further north (No.2, 1313 0746) which revealed a 
%K> room structure with walls built of rubble stone. One 
If (he rooms contained a furnace and pottery dated to the 
jhdh and seventh centuries (Cohen 1972, 41-42). 

i recently, during the 1990s, excavations have been 

J out to the north-east of the modem city in advance 

I development work. The largest group of excavations 
_ J carried out from February to May 1991 in the north 
[ im of modern Beersheba in an area known as Ramot 
I Mot (the area is also referred to as the Nahal Koveshim 
' lacause of the wadi that runs approximately East- West 
_j the northern edge of the city). The excavation was 
j Irvided into eight areas (A-G) extending over more than a 
kBometre. Although the majority of finds were from the 
Byzantine/early Islamic period, twentieth-century ruins 
aad Chalcolithic remains were also excavated. The 
mains attributed to the Byzantine period may be 
awKnarised as follows; in Area B (No.3 1312 0762) a 
hvge building (7.0 x 7.5m) was uncovered with walls up 
» two courses high and a roof supported by a stone arch, 
at Area D (No.4, 1315 0752 ) a large courtyard building 
(17 3 x 26.0m) was uncovered and in Area E (No.5, 1310 
IH7) another courtyard building was exposed. The 
taJdings were dated to the sixth and seventh centuries on 
the basis of 'pottery vessels characteristic of the 
Byzantine period' though it should also be pointed out 
iW significant numbers of early Islamic finds were also 
recorded (Nahshoni et al 1993; Ustinova and Nahshoni 

Another excavation to the north of the city was carried 
out on the University campus (No.6, 1318 0751) from 
December 1990 to February 1991. The excavation 
revealed eight buildings of similar design each 
comprising a main room, a smaller room and a courtyard. 
The buildings were mostly built of rubble of various sizes 
with stone pillars and marble also utilised. In each case 
the main room had a raised floor with thicker walls than 
die other rooms. Some evidence was uncovered for two 
stages of use with temporary structures in the first phase 
becoming more permanent in the second phase. 
Installations included built silos and large (donkey 
drawn) millstones. Two bell shaped cisterns were also 
investigated. They were dug into the soil and lined with 
rubble stones and coated with hydraulic plaster. In 

addition to the buildings twelve cist graves (some 
containing more than one individual) were discovered 
aligned east-west All of the finds are attributed to the 
early Islamic period though the nature of the finds 
including Greek ostraca and the orientation of the burials 
have led the excavators to include that the inhabitants 
were Christian (Nimrod Negev 1993). 

The third group of excavations to the north of the town 
were carried out in an area called Ramot B (No.7, 1322 
0753) located approximately half a kilometre west of the 
University Campus excavations. The area had previously 
been surveyed by Zvi Ilan (1980) who identified four 
structures and a rock-cut cistern. The excavations 
concentrated on one of these structures, which comprised 
a small room (1.05 x 1.20 m) attached to a larger room. 
Finds from within the rooms and in the immediate 
vicinity comprised pottery from the late Byzantine 
period. The excavators interpreted these rooms as part of 
a small farmstead. To the north west of these rooms a 
mound of stones was excavated that proved to be rubble 
from a collapsed round structure (d. 3.14m) made of 
rubble stone and mud brick. This structure was identified 
as a watchtower or silo and was also dated to the late 
Byzantine period (Katz and May 1998). 

3. The City Centre 

The area in the immediate vicinity of the Ottoman 'Old 
City' has always been regarded as the centre of the 
Byzantine and Roman town. Re-used stones and 
architectural fragments found in the houses of the 
Ottoman town suggest that the earlier ruins were used a 
quarry (Dauphin 1998, 959). As early as 1903 Abel 
produced a map of the remains of the town that covered a 
large area (estimated by Fabian 1995, 239 as 100-150 ha) 
with a circumference of more than three kilometres. The 
remains indicated on the map include churches, a 
bathhouse, cisterns and cemeteries. 

One of these churches was re-discovered in 1948 and 

excavated by Y. Israeli in 1967 (Israeli 1968, 415-6: 

Ovadiah and Gomez de Silva 1981, 207-8). The church 

was located a few hundred metres to the south-west of the 

civic centre (No.8, 130 072 ) and until recently included 

some standing remains . It (15 x 24m) had a stone and 

marble floor and three apses. At least two stages of 

construction were discerned and outside, to the south, 

there were rooms, one of which had a wall mosaic. Finds 

from the site included Byzantine ceramics and Umayyad 

coins indicating a continued Christian presence after the 

Arab conquest (Israeli 1967; Israeli 1968). Similarly the 

bath house, which had been noted on Abel's 1903 plan, 

was re-discovered in the 1990' s though the upper part had 

been largely destroyed by development work in the 

1950's (No.9, 1304 0717). The surviving parts of the 

building, including a hypocaust, were found in 1992 

when they were examined by Nimrod Negev after that 

had been damaged during construction work. Negev 

dated the structure to the Byzantine or early Islamic 

period on the basis of ceramic finds (N. Negev 1994). 


Vndrew Petersen 

Uthough the location of some of the principal 
*>mponents of the town were known from Abel s map, 
be location of the military headquarteis mentioned in 
mtorical references (Notitia Dignitatum. Eusebius 
Jnomastikon 227) was unknown. In the sixth-century 
vladaba map Beersheba is depicted as a rectangular camp 
with a building in the centre (Avi Yonah 1954). Recently 
his building has been identified from a 1918 German 
aerial photograph (No. 10, 1303 0721) though most of- the 
area is currently beneath modern buildings (Fabian 1995). 
In 1996 excavations were carried out in part of this area 
in advance of development work on the site. The 
excavations revealed the remains of at least three 
structures, which appeared to be aligned with the walls of 
the camp known from the aerial photograph, rhe 
buildings were within the rectangular enclosure and were 
interpreted as barracks by the excavators. Finds from the 
excavations (including coins and pottery) dated the 
structures to fourth and fifth centuries AD though one 
large installation (Area B 2.5 x 3.5m) appears to be of a 
post-Byzantine date (Ein-Gedy and Masawah 1999). 

Other excavations in the area of the 'Old City' revealed 
evidence for extensive occupation in the Bvzanttne and 
early Islamic periods. For example, Israeli (1967, _ 42-43) 
excavated three subterranean rooms one of which had a 
white mosaic with an inscription commemoraung the 
reconstruction of the building (No.ll, 1300 0715). 
Nearby in 1968 R.Cohen (1968. 130) excavated a 
complex of seven rooms one of which had a mosaic 
pavement dated to the sixth century whilst another had a 
oottery kiln (Cohen 1968). In 1986 a salvage excavation 
was carried out to retrieve a mosaic pavement that had 
been found in the area of the Old ******* 
during a survey of Byzantine remains (No. 12, l3Uft 
0719) The mosaic was located within an asymmetrical 
structure (7.25 x 8.5m) that was interpreted as the atrium 
of a mansion. Finds from the site included marble slabs 
and bowls pottery dating to the late Byzantine and early 
Islamic period (Y. Govrin 1990). A few years later, m 
1997, an excavation in the new Bedouin market (No. 1 3, 
1308 0717) a 100 metres to the south-east of the old 
market recovered ceramics of the late Byzantine and 
early Islamic period (Shimron-Vadaei 1999). 

In addition to the structures described above a number of 
burials were discovered in the vicinity of the Civic Centre 
(No. 14, 1295 0712) during development works in the 
area (Varga 2000). Excavations revealed twenty-six cist 
tombs dated to the Byzantine period on the basis of finds 
from the burials. According to the excavator these tombs 
were part of a larger cemetery which occupied this area in 
the Byzantine and early Islamic period . Further burials 
were discovered to the east of the city centre in the 
modem Industrial zone (No.15, 1318 0725). Sixty cist 
tombs were found lying beneath the foundations of two 
large structures (industrial?) dated to the fifth century 
AD. Near by a large (20 x 10m) stone? pavement was 
discovered (Cohen 1968, 130). 

Further north, next to the Eilat road (No. 16, 1304 0724) 
Govrin located another cemetery which he dated to the 
Late Roman and early Byzantine period (Govrin 1991). 
In the same season Govrin also excavated some structures 
and installations (evidence of industrial activity) nearby 
(No 17, 1307 1722). Part of the cemetery discovered by 
Govrin was later built over at the end of the Byzantine or 
early Islamic period. The plan of the Byzantine period 
remains was not clearly established though there appears 
to have been a structure with at least two rooms and a 
courtyard (No.18. 1318 0725). The Islamic penod 
building consisted of two phases, the first dated from the 
mid seventh-early eighth century whilst the second phase 
was dated to the mid-eighth century. The limited size of 
the excavation meant that only part of the building was 
excavated which comprised several rooms around a 
courtyard (Fabian & Rabin 1 996). 

4. South and West of the Modern Town. 

Excavations to the south and west of the 'Old City' were 
conducted at Nahal Beqa' and Bir Abu Matar (Horvat 
Matar). The Nahal Beqa site is located ■PP R »j™Jf*^ 
kilometre south of the civic centre (No.19, 1302 0705) 
and was excavated in 1991 revealing a small room with 
entrance passage. The foundations were built of medium 
sized rubble stones whilst the upper part, of which only 
one course survives, comprised large flint blocks. There 
were also two ashlar blocks incorporated into the building 
which were interpreted as the base of a pier. Finds 
included pottery and glass of the Late Byzantine and 
early Islamic period. The absence of water in the 
immediate vicinity led the excavators to suggest that me 
building functioned *as a watchman's booth, rather man 

The excavations at Bir Abu Matar (No.20, 1284 0714) 
revealed a much larger building of at least two periods. In 
the first period dated to the late sixth and early seventh 
centuries there was a monumental building with 
flagstones floors and walls covered with mosaics or 
plastered and painted. The building included re-used 
stone slabs one of which had belonged to a tomb and was 
dated by inscription to the year 537 AD (Ustwova A 
Figueras 1996). It is suggested by the excavators that the 
building may overlie some earlier building of the 
Byzantine period, possibly a church. In the late seven* 
century a second building was erected on top ot the 
earlier Byzantine structure. The later building had walls 
preserved to a height of half a metre and was built out of 
medium sized wadi boulders. Finds included pottery 
characterised as late Byzantine and Khirbet al-Mafiar 
type (Gilead et al 1993). 


A few conclusions are possible based on the information 
provided by the excavations. Firstly the centre of the 
Byzantine city appears to be located beneath the town 
established by the Ottomans in the first part of the 
twentieth century. The centre of the city comprised a 

The Towns of Palestine Under Muslim Rule 

Table 7. BcenAeba Samnm?. 

Secular pi**: 

I buildings 

w annum ; ; — - 

f A= Archaeological Evidence, H= Historical 

•onber of elements including the army camp, the church, 
to bathhouse and the urban mansion with mosaic tloors. 
No traces of a town wall have been discovered and the 
boBBdaries of the town are indicated by cemeteries and 
baostria) areas represented by pottery kilns. Beyond the 
tanediate outskirts of the city there were a number ot 
buildings which have been interpreted as farmsteads 
ftough 'the presence of churches at Tel Beersheba and at 
BirAbu Matar indicate that these may have been suburbs 
father than isolated rural settlements. 

Tte second consideration is the chronology represented 
by the excavations. The majority of excavations yielded 
finds datable to the late Byzantine period whilst early 
Byzantine and Roman period remains were more rare. It 
kabo seems likely that there was some expansion ot the 
ate in the late Byzantine and early Sarnie period with 
ttuctures built over earlier cemeteries (e.g. Nos.15 & 16 
on map) 

Many of the Byzantine period sites also contain evidence 
of continuity into the Islamic period with no clear break 
indeed in many cases the excavators admit that they have 
no way of distinguishing between early Islamic and late 
Byzantine. This evidence for continuity is seen equally in 
& high-prestige buildings of the city centre (bath house, 
urban mansion) and in the 'farms' on the periphery. In 
spite of this evidence for the Islamic period there is no 
evidence for the adoption of the Muslim religion and in 
some cases the continuity of Christianity is evident (e.g. 
No.6 on map). 


This site is located in the northern Negev approximately 
20km. south-west of Beersheba and | 10km north-east of 
Renovot (Palestine Grid 117 056) 19 The nuns of the 
t0 wn lie within a bend of Wadi Gaza (Natal Besor and 
comprise a main street running south- north at least two 
churches and a theatre. The area occupied by the city is 

» TV earliest reference to ihe site is in Genesis ««?) **»£*» 

J-I/7r7« h*1u<« The site is also mentioned by Ptolemy 

£l£ v SSASs it as one of the segments west of 

Ocfendol by iow.« .ncln«i«s hniMings with red roots. 

approximately 48 ha. though the nature of the remains 
indicate a fairly dispersed settlement. There ^remains 
of a city wall, which appears to be confirmed by the 
depiction of the city on the Madaba map and the towers 
described by A. Negev (1993b, 380). 

The first excavations of the site were carried out in the 
1930's by the Colt expedition though the results were 
never published in detail (Colt 1936, 216-20). In 1979 
and 1980 further excavations were earned out by a. 
Negev (for full bibliography see Negev 1993b) , 

The existence of the city during the Nabatean period is 
confirmed by the discovery of an inscription referring to 
King Aretas I (c. 168 BC). During mis time Elusa was a 
transit settlement between Petra and Gaza. During the 
Roman and Byzantine periods the city -ncreased in 
importance and became a centre of rhetonc (Mayerson 
1983 248). In the fourth and fifth centuries AD there are 
references to pagan idol worshippers and Christians 
living in the city. The establishment of Christian, y 
appears to have been gradual, thus the first explicitly 
Christian tombstone is dated 519 AD although there had 
been bishops of Elusa since at least AD 431 (Council of 
Ephesus). In AD 530 Elusa is described as the third stop 
on a pilgrimage route from Jerusalem. A few decades 
later the site is described as being 'at the head of the 
desert which extends to Sinai 1 . According to Mayerson 
(1973 253) this statement suggests that the city was in 
decline at this time and was being invaded by shifting 

During the fifth century Elusa was capital of Palaestina 
Salutaris. After the provincial re-organizauon that placed 
it in Palaestrina Tenia the city retained a pre-ermnen 
position until Petra re-established itself as provincial 
capital (Dan 1982). Whatever its administrative satus vis 
a vis Petra, Elusa remained an important administrative 

20 Elusa was first discovered and identified by Robinson in 1838 1(1 841 , 
JffS* 1897 i« was visited by « <» W *^ taffl 
rwentieut century the site was invented by . ***»££% 

few years laier by Wiegand (1920). 


Andrew Petersen 

Table 8. Elosa/Khalaaa Summary 








A 35 ha. 

Admin Status 






Market Place 


A= Archaeological Evidence, H= Historical Evidence 

centre throughout the Byzantine period. This is 
demonstrated in the Nessana Papyri which refer to the 
city variously as 'capital of the region of Nessana' 
(Nessana Papyri Nos. 14-30) and 'capital of the district' 
Nessana Papyri No. 46). Despite its administrative status 
there is some indication that the size of the settlement 
may have been declining or at least stagnating in the sixth 
century. For example a mid-sixth century document 
(Nessana Papyri No 39) describes the military payments 
(annona militaris) for various sites in the region and 
describes Elusa as paying 792 solidi (approximately half 
the amount paid by other settlements such as Nessana, 
Oboda and Mampsis). A. Negev (1993b, 380) interprets 
this document to imply that Elusa needed less money for 
defence because it was already well protected though a 
more likely explanation is that the size of the settlement 
was less. 

Whatever the actual condition of Elusa at the end of the 
Byzantine period it appears to have retained its 
administrative status into the Muslim period, thus in 
seventh century documents it is described as a district in 
the Province of Gaza (Nessana Papyri Nos. 60-70). 

The archaeological evidence for the continuation of the 
city into the Islamic period is scarce. There are, for 
example, no Greek inscriptions from the period after 600 
AD (Alt 1921, 29, No.60) and there are no reports of 
Arabic inscriptions from the site. Colt's expedition 
reported pottery from the Nabatean to the early Islamic 
period though Negev does not mention any post 
Byzantine ceramics. The only indication of continued 
activity after the Muslim conquest given by Negev is the 
statement that one of the churches was '...stripped of its 
marble revetment and columns in the early Arab period 
probably not much later than 700 CE [AD]' (Negev 
1993c). However Negev presents no evidence to 
substantiate the date for this event. 

Apparently the settlement was no longer thriving in the 
seventh century and there is no evidence of any 
occupation after the seventh century. Despite this Elusa 
continues to be referred to in official documents 
suggesting that the administrative status was very 
conservative. Confirmation for the continued 
administrative existence of Elusa comes from a fifteenth 
century Arabic document that refers to the territory of 
Khalus (Negev 1993b, 379). 

Mampsis / Kurnub 

This well-preserved ruined settlement is located on an 
elevated site 46 km south-east of Beersheba (Palestine 
Grid 156 046). The town was enclosed within a wall and 
is bordered on one side by the cliffs overlooking Wadi 
Kurnub (Nahal Mamshit). The remains enclosed by the 
wall have an irregular shape (approximately 200 x 140 m) 
and include at least two churches and a bathhouse. 

The site is mentioned by Ptolemy {Geography V, 16, 
100), in the sixth century Beersheba tax edict (Alt 
1921,4-13) and by Eusebius Onomasticon (8:8). On the 
Madaba map Mampsis is depicted as a gateway flanked 
by two towers with red tiled roofs behind (Donner 1992, 
69 No. 93). 

There appears to have been continuous occupation of the 
site from the Nabatean to late Byzantine period with 
individual houses in continuous occupation. There was 
some difficulty dating the buildings and coins appear to 
have been the main method of assessing the periods of 

According Negev (1993d) the city wall was built in the 
late Roman period though Appelbaum attributes it to the 
very late Byzantine period (Appelbaum 1956) which 
seems a more likely date in view of Negev's tendency to 
date features at the site earlier than most scholars would 
accept (cf Graf 2000). Neither of the two churches that 
have been investigated have been precisely dated though 
the East church is believed to have been built before 427 
AD and the West Church was built at some time in the 
late fourth century. The east church contained Arabic 
graffiti and traces of occupation from the early Islamic 
period. According to Negev the church may have been 
converted into a mosque during this period though no 
evidence is given for this. A single burial in the north 
aisle is assumed to be the body of a Muslim though 
Schick (1995) rightly disputes this conclusion. 

According to Negev the West Church 'was destroyed by J 
a violent conflagration; parts of wooden beams and roof I 
tiles were found in the debris, together with stone andj 
marble fragments' (Negev 1993d, 891). One room in the! 
south-east of the city appears to have been used as a forge 
in the Early Islamic period (Negev 1993d, 887) thougbl 
there is no reported Islamic period occupation elsewhere] 
on the site. 

The Towns of Palestine Under Muslim Rule 





Secular pubic 




Table 9. Mampria / Konreb Summary 


A (c. 4 ha.) 


jg churches). 


Early Islamic 

A (c. 4 ha.) 








Early Ottoman 


■ Archaeological Evidence, H= Historical Evidence 

Table 10. Nessana/'Auja Haffir Summary 



I «• I'- 
I '>•' 




Secular public 



A (15-18 ha.) H 




Early Islamic 

A (15-18 ha.) H 

(2 churches). 




Early Ottoman 

A» Archaeological Evidence H= Historical evidence 

According to Negev (1993d, 893) the town had already 
ton deserted before 636 because there were no coins 
from later than the mid-sixth century. However the same 
atfbor also enigmatically states that 'Kurnub was 
temporarily occupied by the Arabs following the 
conquest'. Unfortunately Negev gives little evidence for 
the 'Arab' occupation of the site and no pottery has been 
■•Wished. Negev (1993d) argued that the desertion of the 
ate before AD 636 was the result of a Bedouin raid 
bough Schick (1995, 402) suggests that it could also 
htve been an earthquake. More recently Magness (2000) 
questioned the date of the abandonment of the town based 
on a re-cxamination of the pottery suggested that it was 
inhabited in the early Islamic period. 


Id view of the fact that none of the evidence for the 
'Arab' period has been published it is not possible to give 
a definite date for the abandonment of the site though 
Magness' research indicates some continuity of 
occupation (Magness 2000). In any case the small size of 
the site suggests that it should not be considered as a 
town even though it most other features one would expect 
m an urban settlement. 

Nenana/'Auja Haffir 

Large dispersed settlement in the north-west Negev 
approximately eighty kilometres south-west of Beersheba 

(Palestine Grid 0970 0318). The site stands next to the 
Wadi Hafrir and comprises a town based around an 
elevated citadel (Plates 9-10). There are no historical 
references to the site before the Byzantine period though 
there is considerable archaeological evidence that the site 
was first developed by the Nabateans as a border post in 
the third century BC. Like other Negev towns the 
economy of the settlement depended on its position on a 
trade route and its function as a centre for local 
agriculture (cf Mayerson 1960) though it also served a 
military and administrative function especially after the 
decline of the older provincial centre of Elusa. 

Nessana came to the attention of scholars later than other 
urban sites. The first plan of the site was made by Alois 
Musil in 1902 (1907:88-9). Soon afterwards the 
Ottomans developed the site as the centre of a qaim 
maqamlik. In 1908 the Turks built a military headquarters 
and hospital on the site that was used a base for raids on 
the Suez canal. The first archaeological excavations were 
carried out during the British Mandate by the Colt 
expedition (1935-7). The most important discovery of the 
excavation was the Papyri dating from the early sixth 
century (512) to the late seventh century (689). 

The remains of the town include three churches a fort, 
streets and open spaces enclosed within a defensive wall. 
The fort is a large building with projecting square towers 
at either end of the south wall and at regular intervals 
along the east wall. There is a vaulted entrance in the 


Andrew Petersen 

middle of the south wall that leads into a rectangular 

courtyard {85m x 35m) surrounded by rooms. The North 

Church is located on the northern slope of the acropolis 

and is separate from the fort. The church was dedicated to 

Saints Sergius and Bacchus and formed part of a 

monastery. It was founded some time before 464 AD 

according to a Greek funerary inscription and enlarged in 

601-2 AD according to an inscription on one of the 

capitals. The church contained a number of tombstones, 

the earliest dated to 605 and the latest to 630. The 

remains of many of the furnishings including marble 

indicate that the church was not robbed before it 

collapsed. There was considerable evidence for later 

occupation of the complex thus lamps dated to the 

Abbasid period were found sealed beneath the floor in a 

number of places (Room 1, Room 10, Room 32, the 

entrance hall and other places). There was also evidence 

for later use of the site with blocked doors and rough 

walls suggesting secondary use. The majority of coins 

were from the mid-seventh century or earlier though ten 

undated coins were from the period 696-750. There is 

documentary evidence from one of the papyri that the 

church was in use in 685 AD (Kraemer, 156-60 No.56). 

To the north of the church there was a small chapel that 

was associated with a number of chambers and has been 

interpreted as a coenobion. 

The church of St Mary Theotokos (the South Church) 
stands on a low crest to the south of the acropolis. It was 
built in 602 AD according to an inscription on one of the 
capitals. Recent excavations revealed two residential 
complexes associated with this church. The church was 
connected to the fort by a hastily built enclosure wall 
dating from the period after the construction of the 

The acropolis was connected to the town by an enclosure 
wall that ran down the side of the hill and followed the 
line of the Wadi Hafrir before returning to the east. The 
enclosure wall contains a gate (1.9m wide) set within a 
small gatehouse. In the North East comer of the 
settlement there is a rectangular projection that contains a 
khan and a church (East Church/ Monastery Church) in 
south. The church was built in 435 AD according to a 
mosaic inscription which no longer exists. 


A number of interpretations have been placed on the 
plentiful archaeological and documentary evidence from 
the site. For example the director of the Colt expedition 
argued that the site was deserted after the Abbasid 
revolution (i.e. 750AD) according to the archaeological 
evidence. This view was supported by Kraemer who 
edited the papyri found at the site (1958, 218). Gil on the 
other hand argued for an earlier date stating 'we find 
direct evidence of the destruction of agriculture and the 
desertion of the villages in the fact that the papyri of 
Nessana are completely discontinued after the AD 700' 
(Gill 1992, 275 & n. 40). 

In contrast to Gil's surprising disregard for archaeological 
evidence in favour of his own assumptions a number of 
recent authors have begun to question the 750 AD date 
for the abandonment of the site (eg Magness 2000). 
Although the main publication of the excavations 
indicates that the site was occupied until the end of the 
seventh century there is considerable evidence in the 
same publication for continuity into the eighth, ninth and 
tenth centuries. This issue has recently been addressed by 
Magness (2000) who stated that 'substantial Islamic 
occupation is rendered invisible in the final report*. 
Archaeological evidence cited by Magness includes glass 
dating from the eighth to eleventh centuries, buff ware 
similar to that found at Khirbat al-Mafjar, softstone and 
black ceramic bowls (cf. Magness 1994). The 
archaeological evidence is complimented by the papyri 
which indicate that Nessana was still producing 
documents into the eighth century. The documents give 
some indication of the nature of the settlement indicating 
that there were still Christians at the end of the seventh 
century though there were also Muslims including Yazid 
ibn Fa'id who served as a judge (qadf) in 687 AD 
(67 AH) (Colt 1962). 

Whilst the above review of archaeological evidence 
indicates that the site was inhabited well into the Islamic 
period the table poses the question of whether Nessana 
should be considered as town. However in view of the 
known population of circa 1500 in the seventh century 
(Kraemer 1958: 218) it seems reasonable to classify it as 
urban even though some of the features normally 
associated with a town have not yet been identified. 

Rehovot JKh. Ruheib«h 2J 

This large deserted site (approximate size 13 hectares) is 
located on elevated ground overlooking Wadi Ruheiba in 
the Northern Negev (Palestine Grid 108 048)". The 
remains have evidence of occupation from the Nabatean 
to early Islamic periods. 

From the area covered by the remains the excavators have 
estimated a maximum population of 4,800 though a 
figure in the region of 1, 300 seems more realistic. The 
economy of the town was probably based on the site's 
position on the Gaza-Ayla-Sinai route and agriculture in 
the loess beds of the near by wadis (Tsafrir 1993 295). 
Despite an absence of ancient references some 
information about the inhabitants is provided by 

21 Despite its large size the ancient name of the settlement is not known 
and the present name by which the site is known derives from Robinson 
who linked the site with. Rehoboth ,the well of Isaac (Gen. 26:22) on 
the basis of the similarity between the Arabic name of the site 
(Ruhebieh). Although this link is generally rejected by modem scholar* 
the site has retained the name. More recently Tsafiir (1993) has sought 
to identify the site with one of the settlements known from Nessana 
papyrus No. 79. in particular Betbomolchon named after a Nabatean 
kinz , Malicheus 1 (mid 1" century BC). 

22 Alt 1921:Lecker 1989 24-37:Musil 1902. 2. Edom, 7 8- 83; Letter ; 
198924-37: Nevo 1989. l8-23:Robinson 1838.196-7:Shareo j 
1993;Tsarrir 1993. 294-302: Tsafrir and Holurn !988:Tsafrirand Hohim 
.-.,, —..*■. — ' -;«: "«in< «* » ««(-„"— ■ ntAxRl-'ummtr 1A15 .IhUSh. 

rSLaa'. B» tombstones display a range of dates 
ITSes. ton**,* (tot of Stephen) dated to AD 
(01 (Alt 1921. 33 no. 86). 
A „»ber of buildings ha,« been identified b,Mbe 

STdSSS by the Ottoman Turks some time after 
Sffi^Sd description of this building is given m 
Musil 1907,78-83). 

SSSte North church is much larger wtth its ™ 
2S "one of the largest church complexes known in 
ZZev" (Tsafrir 1993. 229). The complex comprises a 
teiUcfwim three apses and a crypt below, a smaller 
SSuSt atrium No building inscriptions have been 
ffi£* tombstones and ^BSSSmSS 
nans irive a range of dates from AD 488 to MM u *■ 
S fuggested that the crypt below the eastern end of the 
Sch housed relics an idea strengthened by the fact that 

J5.T*. wall. An empty ££j^£££ 
Scs which may have been removed when the city was 
abandoned (cf. Schick 1995:441). 

A number of Arabic inscriptions in Kufic script were 
ZSJS. of the renewed street** "» * «** ° f 

m *««* of gto*d pc««y ■*■*• «*«**" *■* 
(Taaftir and Holum 1988 a & b). 

Fxcavations in the rest of the ate were P™" 1 '' 
SI* reaidenttol buildings, to toe souto-eaata 
house was partially excavated which was n the 
S*T|5tod (fifth century) but rested dtrecdy on 
S remains ctouacterised by Nabatean and Eastern 

identification as Rehovot. 

The other area where domestic f«*K t^T?2S 

five S Tbelongiong to two courtyard houses at *e 
live rooms ^ B * . j, a s between the 

southern extremity of the site, me gay 

SS275 the rooms were removed at some pom 
and were »ater -occupied by squatters who settled , afi er 
me hou'e had been deserted by its offend inhabitant 
%Sm Holum 1988a, 119). Several layers of ash 
( Jim intermediate layers of wind-bownte J-J 
several stages of 'squatter' occupation before the rooi 
finally collapsed. 

The largest non-religious building on the site is the 

building variously known as the stables or khan and is 

£S£! the central church. It is i**""** 

buildine (Six 28m) with a central courtyard and rooms 

abound the edge. In the north of the courtyard, next to the 

rZice Lre is a large room with wall troughs that has 

KT££I£ m a'stable and certainly .Ml-j 

characteristics with buildings excavated at Shivta and 

S^S ^avators suggest that mis part of the 

SSEmM funded in the second or third century and 

S3 in use until the beginning o *"£«** 

An rjurine its early phase the stables had an earth noor 

mat Spaced with a flagstone floor in the Byzan me 

!£2 Mng the early Islamic period the east wall of 

mrsmbles flanking the main entrance, began to collapse 

aTd wS sup^r Jby a specially built buttress to*. 

new construction in the Islamic penod ""J 
Sinuous use or re-use of earlier structures (Mr and 
Holum 1988a, 119-121). : -. 

1 m 


Andrew Petersen 

Table 11 Rehovot-ZKh. Ruheibeh Summary 




Secular public 



A (13 ha.) 

(4 churches) 

A (bathhouse) 


Early Islamic 

A (13 ha.) 

A (bathhouse) 



A= Archaeological Evidence, H= Historical Evidence 

The first point worth noting is that there is considerable 
evidence for occupation after the Islamic conquests in the 
early part of the seventh century. The evidence for the 
end of occupation at the end of the seventh century is 
based on the 'absence of decorated or glazed Arab pottery 
characteristic of the eighth and following centuries' 
(Tsafrir 1993, 296). Whilst this conclusion is generally 
acceptable it seems possible that there may have been 
some occupation after that date in view of the Arabic 
inscriptions one of which is dated to the 'Umayyad- early 
Abbasid period' (Sharon 1993, 50), 

The second point is that the excavators characterise the 
Islamic period, (i.e after the churches went out of use) as 
a time of squatter occupation. However the evidence from 
the excavations reveals construction and refurbishment at 
this time. Evidence for construction includes the building 
in the north-east corner of the stables building and the 
paving of the atrium to the north church whilst the repair 
of the entrance to the stables building indicates that the 
whole building was in use. 

The third point is that the 'squatter occupation" in the 
houses of Area B is characterised by the 'removal of 
flagstones' and the lighting of successive fires. Although 
it seems likely that paving stones were removed it is also 
possible that paving had not been completed in the rooms 
referred to. If the rooms had been paved with flagstones, 
which were subsequently removed, it is likely that they 
were intended for use elsewhere as it does not make sense 
to remove a good floor if you are going to live in a room 
(N.B a new paved floor was laid in the atrium during the 
early Islamic period). The layers of occupation before the 
collapse of the roof indicate successive stages of 
occupation with intervening layers of sand and loess. The 
'absence of any typical eighth century pottery in even the 
latest layers of occupation' may indicate that there was no 
late squatter occupation or that the later inhabitants did 
not have large quantities of pottery a fact supported by 
Schaeffer's work in the Northern Negev (Schaeffer 


Early Ottoman 

Despite these qualifications it is clear that the town was 
in decline after the eighth century if not completely 
abandoned. The reasons for the desertion are not known 
although the location of Rehovoth on the Christian 
pilgrimage route between Gaza and St Catherine's and 
the decline of that route after the Muslim conquest may 
have had some impact. In this connection it is worth 
noting that one of the Arabic inscriptions published by 
Sharon (1993, 57-8) is written (or mentions) by Badr of 
Elat (Aylah/ Aqaba) implying that Rehovot was still on a 
route between central Palestine and the Red Sea. 

Isbaita / Sbivta 

Large deserted site located in the north-west Negev 
approximately forty three kilometres south west of 
Beersheba (Palestine Grid 1145 0325) 23 . The site has 
been identified with the setdement of Sobata mentioned 
in Nessana papyri dated to the seventh century (nos. 75 
and 79). Another identification of the site is found in the 
fifth century Nilus narrative where it is referred to as Suk 
(Soubeiia) (Mayerson 1975). The modern Arabic name 
from which the Hebrew name is derived has been given 
variously as Isbeita, S'beita and Sbeita. A.Negev suggests 
that the modern Arabic name is derived from the 
Nabatean personal name Shubitu (A. Negev 1993a) . 

* The site was first described by Palmer in 1870 though (he fini 

detailed descriptions and plan was made by Musil over thirty years later 

(Musi! 1902). A few years afterwaids the site was visited by Jaussen 

and Savignac (1905) who made a study of the funerary inscriptions, fa 

1914 a systematic survey of the site was made by Woolley (Woolley 

and Lawrence 1916)followed two years later by Wiegand (1920). The 

first excavations were carried out by the Colt expedition between 1934- 

38 though unfortunately the final results of this project are still awaiting 

publication (preliminary reports were published by Baly 1935 and Coh 

1935.1936 and 1948). With the creation of the State of Israel much of 

the site was cleared by the National Parks authority under the direction 

of Avi-Yonah between 1958 and 1960 though there is no published 

account of this work (Dauphin 1985). In the 1970s the site was surveyed 

by A. Negev (1993) and later by A. Segal who also carried out limited 

excavations (Segal 1983). In 198 1 a new map of the town was made by 

Brimer based on aerial photographs of the site (Brimer 1981). Further 

excavations were carried out by Margalii in 1985 and a detailed study of 

the town plan was made by Shereshevski (1991). 

M The principal references are: Avni 1994, 87-88 : Baly 1935: Brimer 

1981 : Colt 1935 : Colt 1936 : Crowfoot IWb, 14-27 : Jaussen, A. eial 

1905. 256-7: Kedar 1957 : Mayerson 1975 : Musil, A. 1902, Arabia 

Petraea 2. Edam, 36-45 :A. Negev 1981. 48-62 : A. Negev 1993a: 

*., , o.i io-t.i, .flO.'sa.i Ji?bv?Ji..J.R9&. 457-J*.:..Sb<a£«lMV<;ki..iap.l; 

The Towns of Palestine Under Muslim Rule 

i dty has an irregular shape aligned approximately N- 

li a large reservoir in the centre of the southern pan 

34). There are three churches, one near the 

called the South Church, one at the northern 

Bty of the town (the North Church) and one mid- 

betwcen the two referred to as the Central church 

Hates 11-14). There are a large number of main 

j dividing the city into blocks of irregular size and 

with smaller lanes providing access to individual 

There is no city wall, though, as at Rehovot, the 

i on the edge of the settlement are joined together 

l to form a continuous wall. 

origins of the site are Nabatean, though little survives 

tjnn this period with the exception of some displaced 
flBcriptions and pottery published by Crowfoot (1936). 
ffte main period of the city's growth appears to have 
been the Byzantine period; thus in the fourth century it 
iw described as a village but by the seventh century it 
had expanded to become a 'metrotome [town) with three 
churches but it never achieved the status of polis [city]' 
(Dauphin 1985, 155). Like other Ncgev towns the 
economy was dependant on caravan and pilgrimage trade 
though it also had a sophisticated agricultural base that 
hat been explored in detail by Kedar (1957) who 
estimated more than eighty (household?) groups who 
owned fields in the vicinity of die town. 

There is considerable evidence for continued occupation 
of die site well into the Islamic period. The most obvious 
example of the continued occupation during the Muslim 
period is the mosque that is built next to the baptistery of 
die South Church. 

The mosque was discovered by the Colt expedition in the 
1930's (Colt 1936; Baly 177, 1935) and comprises a 
courtyard and sanctuary both paved with flagstones. The 
courtyard was entered by a broad set of steps on the west 
ade. Two of the steps are re-used Byzantine lintels 
decorated with rosettes and crosses. In the north-west 
comer of the courtyard there is a small square opening 
providing access to a subterranean cistern. A small step 
marks the transition from the courtyard to the prayer hall. 
Three arches (no longer standing) provided access to the 
prayer hall (6.7 x 8.6m). This was divided into nine bays 
supported on six central columns and arches springing 
fiom the walls (cf Avni 1994, 87-88, 90 Fig. 8, which 
incorrectly states that there were only four columns). The 
roof was made of transverse arches covered with large 
flat limestone slabs (this is the typical construction 
technique in the Negev). In the centre of the south wall 
there is a deep concave mihrab. The arch of the mihrab 
was converted from a doorway that originally led into the 
baptistery (Baly 1935, 177). According to Segal (1983, 
16-17 Fig 14) the construction of the mosque blocked a 
lane that led from the southern church. 

Segal 1983 : Wiegand, T. 1920, 62-83 : Woolley & Lawrence 1916 72- 


The date of construction is not known, though Baly 
(1935) states that the building has Kufic inscriptions 
datable to the ninth century AD (cf Colt 1936 who states 
'adjoining the baptistery to the north are the remains of a 
small mosque. From this came several stone blocks 
covered with Cufic inscriptions which may be as early as 
the ninth century'). One of the inscriptions records the 
building of the (a?) mosque by a 'Hassan' although 
unfortunately this is not dated (Baly 1935). However the 
architecture of the mosque gives some indication of the 
date, thus the concave form of the mihrab suggests a date 
after AD709. The first concave mihrab was introduced by 
'Umar ibn Abd al-Aziz when he rebuilt the mosque of 
Medina in 709 and the second was in the Mosque of 
Amr in 710-12 (Creswell 1989,46). The other notable 
feature of the building is the construction of the prayer 
hall that is divided into nine bays. The lay-out resembles 
nine-domed mosques that are a feature of Islamic 
architecture from the ninth to the sixteenth centuries 
(King 1989; Petersen 1996a, 209-211). Although this 
building was almost certainly not roofed with domes the 
similarity of the layout may be significant suggesting a 
late eighth or ninth century date. 

Other indications of continued occupation into the 
Muslim period include the fact that the floor of the South 
church was re-laid in AD 639 according to an inscription 
in the south aisle (Baly 1935; Negev 1981, 48-61). As 
there was no evidence of destruction it seems likely that 
the inscription referred to the replacement of a worn floor 
rather than repairs after the previous floor had been 
destroyed (cf Schick 1995, 458). The only evidence of 
deliberate destruction was one of the lintels with a carved 
depiction of birds, other animals and a cross. The birds 
and animals were defaced by chisel though the cross was 
undamaged, perhaps indicating that the damage was 
carried-out by Christians in response to demands from 
Muslim officials (cf Schick 1995, 218-9, 458). 

In the North church and monastery there are a number of 
burials marked by tombstones dating from 582 to 679 
again indicating a continuity of use (Negev 1981, 48-61; 
Schick 1995, 457). There are also a number of Arabic 
inscriptions in the Atrium and Narthex that Baly des- 
cribes as 'Cufic in character of the ninth century'. Unfort- 
unately the inscriptions were not published because 
according to Baly 'They are of no historical importance 
being chiefly invocations to God' (Baly 1935, 176). 

In addition to the evidence from the churches and the 
mosque pottery found all over the site indicates continued 
occupation into the Islamic period. Unfortunately this 
pottery has never been published although descriptions 
and a photograph have appeared in reports. According to 
the excavators the buff ware moulded pottery could be 
dated to the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries (Colt 
1936). However examination of the photograph 
reproduced in Baly (1935, Plate VI Fig.2) indicates that 
the pottery is similar to the moulded buff wares excavated 
at Ramla and elsewhere and should be dated to the 9* and 
10* centuries AD (cf. Cytryn-Silverman 1999, 38-9). 

Andrew Petersen 




Secular public 




A (11 ha.) 

A (mosque & 

Table 12 Isbaita / Shivta Summary 

Early Islamic 

A (11 ha.) 

A (mosque & 

A= Archaeological Evidence. H= Historical Evidence 


Mamluk _ 

Early Ottoman 

TaMe 13. Kh. Futais/ Kb. Fulets Summary 




Secular public 


A (25 ha.) 

A (church?) 



Early Islamic 

A (25 ha.) 



Early Ottoman 

A= Archaeological Evidence, H= Historical 

The archaeological evidence indicates that Christianity 
continued to be practised in the town until at least 679 
and that a community of Muslims was established there 
by the eighth century. It seems probable that the site was 
abandoned after the tenth century AD. 

Kb, Futais/ Kh. Futeis 

This site is located north- west of Beersheba between 
Ofaqim and Gazit in the northern (Negev Palestine Grid 
1 14-081 J 23 . The remains consist of a large site estimated 
to have a circumference of 1.8 kilometres on the north 
bank of the Wadi Futtais. The ancient name of the site is 
not known though there is a suggested idenitification with 
Aphtia which Avi-Yonah regards as very doubtful (GRP 
88). A more likely identification is with the site of Photis 
on the Madaba map (Donner 1992, 72). 

The site is characterised by twenty large cisterns 
(diameter 4m depth 4-6m) built of rubble stones set in 
mortar (Plate IS). The roofs of the cisterns are of conical 
form with the remains of ceramic pipes embedded in the 
mortar. In addition there are six stone lined wells that are 
built into the bed of Wadi Futtais. A recent survey of the 
oite was made by D.Alon (iinpiihlished?) while engaged 

on the excavation of the nearby site of Gilat. This survey 
recorded a number of cisterns, the remains of a large 
public building and a limestone slab with a seven line 
Greek inscription mentioning Bishop Basilius. In 1987 a 
rescue excavation was carried out by the Department of 
Antiquities during the construction of the Gilat-Ofaqim 
road. A large area was uncovered (220 square metres) 
with a number of construction phases visible. The 
excavations distinguished six main phases of occupation 
ranging from the Byzantine to the Fatimid period (Statum 
6 =Byzantine, stratum 5 =Umayyad and strata 4-1 
Fatimid period). The excavators distinguished remains of 
a 1.4m wide wall aligned NE-SW originally built in the 
Byzantine era though it continued in use in the later 
periods. In stratum 4 several rooms aligned NE-SW were 
uncovered. There were also remains of buildings in strata 
1 and 2. All the walls were made of mud brick or pise" 
resting on stone foundations. Glazed pottery was found in 
stratum 1-4 26 . 

Unfortunately the excavations at the site have not been 
reported in great detail so that no firm conclusions can be 
made. However the available information implies that 
this was a large, possibly urban, settlement which 
flourished in the Byzantine and early Islamic period. 

» Dauphin 1998, 958: GRP 88: Israel 1976,202: Nahlieli and Israel * Glazed pottery was also found rJuring my own investigation of the 


Ctimate and landscape 

The borders of Eastern Galilee are marked on the south 
by the Valley of Jezreel/Marj ibn 'Amir and on the east 
by the Jordan valley and the Sea of Galilee. The northern 
limit of the area is the Lebanese border and the western 
limit is the watershed between the wadis flowing west to 
the Mediterranean and eastwards to the Sea of Galilee. 

Galilee as a whole is comparatively well watered with 
much of the area receiving more than 600mm. average 
annual rainfall (MacDonald 2001, 506 Fig. 17.1). The 
precipitation is mosUy a result of its elevation and 
proximity to the Mediterranean. Much of the region is 
mountainous with a lower range of hills/mountains in the 
south rising to a height of just over 500m a northern part 
where they rise to a height of over 1200m. The effect of 
the elevation is increased by the Jordan valley and the 
Sea of Galilee to the east parts of which lie more than 200 
metres below (Mediterranean) sea level. The geology of 
the region is complex with an essentially limestone/ 
dolomite formation in the west giving way to the basaltic 
region bordering the Sea of Galilee in the east (Goldberg 
1998) The natural vegetation reflects the geological 
diversity though in general it may be classified as open 
forests in the south (Quercus ithaburrensis) and west 
(teratoma siliqua and Pistacia lentiscus) and more dense 
woodland (maquis and forest) in the north. The area 
bordering the Sea of Galilee is open grassland with 
bushes (Savanoid Mediterranean) in the lower parts and 
herbaceous vegetation (including Ziziphus lotus) higher 
up the slopes (Danin 1998). 

Although in terms of natural geography there is little to 
distinguish Eastern and Western Galilee there is a 
cultural/political division, which appears in different 
periods thus the western border of the Byzantine province 
of Palaestina II ran directly through the centre of Galilee. 
This division was to re-appear in the Crusader and later 
periods (cf Ellenblum 1998, 253-276). 

Unlike other areas of Palestine there is no obvious urban 
centre thus the regional capital has altered depending on 
historical circumstances (see Fig. 35). In the first century 
BC the capital was located at Sepphoris later moving 
north-east to the newly founded city of Tiberias in AD 
18. Tiberias remained capital until the fifth century AD 
when Scythopolis/Baysan was became capital of 
Palaesuna II. With the Muslim conquest in the seventh 
century Tiberias once again became capital. In the 
eleventh and twelfth centuries Tiberias was overlooked in 
favour of Acre as the regional and later overall capital of 
the Crusader kingdom. The capital was moved once more 
at the end of the thirteenth century when Safad was 

established as capital of the region 1 . It is notable that as 
each town rose to prominence the other towns declined in 
importance giving rise to the suggestion that the area 
could only really support one urban centre. The one 
exception to this is during the Byzantine penod where 
one Baysan existed as a pre-dominatly Christian city and 
Tiberias as a Jewish centre. 

Early Islamic Period (Fig. 36) 

Both Baysan and Tiberias exhibit considerable continuity 
of settlement from the Byzantine period into the 
Umayyad period 2 . At Baysan the Umayyad period 
appears to have been fairly prosperous with considerable 
industrial activity, the construction of public buildings 
and housing. However there also appears to have been a 
re-orientation of the town with the city centre becoming 
an industrial area and a possible shift of occupation to the 
south and the area of the Ottoman/modern town. These 
movements may be a result of changes brought about by 
Islam or may have been part of the city's natural 
development away from the tell 3 . As might be expected 
the archaeology of Tiberias shows that the city expanded 
during the Islamic period probably as a result of its 
renewed capital status. The construction of a new Muslim 
quarter or misr as posited by Harrison ( 1 992) is similar to 
the situation at Aqaba/Ayla and indicates a re-onentation 
of the Classical/Byzantine city. 

In addition to the cities there are a few larger settlements 
which some have regarded as small towns most notably 
Capernaum. The archaeology at Capernaum shows a 
similar development to Tiberias with a new development 
to the north in the Umayyad period. In this case however 
the earlier Byzantine settlement appears to have dwindled 
at the expense of the new settlement of the Umayyad 
period (Whitcomb 1994). 

Crusader Period (Fig. 37) 

Under the Crusaders a number of settlements in Eastern 
Galilee had burgage courts which may be regarded as an 
indication of urban status. Using this criteria the area had 
six urban setUements; Tiberias, Nazareth, Safad, Baysan, 
Palmarea and Daburiyya 4 . However it is doubtful whether 
all of these could realistically have been regarded as 

1 The capital of the region changed once more in the eighteenth century 
when Acre replaced Safed as the regional capital dunng ihe rule of 

Zahir al-'Umar. . . 

2 Unfortunately the later archaeology (post-Roman) of Sepphons has 
only been investigated recendy and it is possible that connmnry from 
the Byzantine to the Umayyad period will also be demonstraied here. 

3 There is for example, evidence of flooding in the area at the foot of 
the tell at Baysan during the Umayyad period giving a strong incentive 
(o relocate higher up on the plateau to the south. 

* Pringle (1995. 70-71) uses this definition of towns in an article on 
town defences though he admits this method is used more for Hs 
MnvenfeMfc and that the distinction between urban and rural 
settlements was not always clear cut. 

Andrew Petersen 

Table 14 Rural Settlements 

Crusader Period 

Mamluk Per kx) 

Western Galilee 


78 (17.9% reduction) 

Eastern Galilee 


65 (260% Increase) 

urban settlements. For example contemporaries referred 
to both Palmarea and Daburiyya as villages. Even Baysan 
appears to have been of little importance thus William of 
Tyre (trans. Babcok and Krey, II, 494) writing in the 
twelfth century describes it as a village. Confirmation of 
its lowly status comes from the fact that the Episcopal see 
of Scythopolis (Baysan) was transferred first to Mount 
Tabor and later to Nazareth. Although Safed was clearly 
of some importance by the end of the Crusader period it 
significant that it did not emerge as a major Crusader 
urban centre until the reconstruction of its castle in 1240- 
]\ The importance of Nazareth as a town is more 
difficult to assess because of its religious significance as 
the third most important Christian shrine. It is possible 
that the Church of the Annunciation formed the nucleus 
of an urban centre though it is equally possible that 
beyond the ecclesiastical complex it was little more than 
a village as appears to have been the case with 
Bethlehem. Unfortunately archaeology provides little 
help because most of the only area that has been subject 
to excavation is the site of the Church of the 
annunciation. The only settlement which can be called a 
town with any degree of certainty is Tiberias which was 
enclosed by walls and had both a church and a castle. 
However the size of the Crusader city appears to have 
been considerably smaller than its early Islamic 
predecessor occupying an area not much larger than eight 
hectares (i.e. approximately the same size as Arsuf). 

On the basis of the above summary it appears that the 
Crusaders only had one functioning urban settlement in 
eastern Galilee at any one time (first Tiberias and later 
Safed with Nazareth functioning as an episcopal centre). 
If this is compared with the coast of Galilee which covers 
a much smaller area (less than half the area) and contains 
at least two walled cities it can be seen that the area of 
Eastern Galilee was less well developed. The same 
impression is conveyed when rural settlements are 
considered thus Eastern Galilee contained 24 rural sites 
compared with 95 for western Galilee. Research by 
Ellenblum (1998, 213-276) suggests that the differential 
density of settlement in western and eastern Galilee may 
be a result of an underlying cultural difference with 
origins in the Byzantine period. He suggests that the 
western part of Galilee contained more sites because its 
native population was Christian and therefore more 
accommodating to the Crusaders. On the other hand the 
native population of the eastern part was predominantly 
Jewish or Muslim living in a smaller number of large 
villages and less receptive to Frankish settlement. 
Ellenblum also suggests that the number of settlements in 

' It is notable that Safed only emerged as a regional centre more than 
half a cemuiy after Tiberias had fallen out of Crusader control and at 
more or less the same time that Tiberias was being sacked by 

eastern Galilee had been reduced by nomadic infiltration 
during the preceding centuries (i.e. early Islamic period). 

Mamluk Period (Fig. 38) 

The return of Muslim rule had a dramatic effect on the 
pattern of settlement in Galilee. The most well known 
effect was the destruction of the Crusader capital of Acre 
which together with the destruction of the other coastal 
towns meant there was no ancient urban centre left in the 
north of Palestine. On the other hand the Crusader 
stronghold of Safed was rebuilt by the Mamluk Sultan 
Baybars and became a major urban centre. The growth of 
Safed stimulated the regeneration of eastern Galilee as 
can be seen from the above table which compares the 
number of rural settlements during the Crusader period 
and after. 

Despite the increase in the number of settlements in 
eastern Galilee during the Mamluk period there is no 
evidence for the revival of the areas around the ancient 
urban centres of Baysan and Tiberias. The growth of 
Safed is hard to explain when the ancient towns of 
Baysan and Tiberias contracted to the size of villages. 
However a number of reasons can be suggested which 
may be summarised as 1) security, 2) the destruction of 
the coastal towns 3) the decline of the sugar industry 4) 
the changing trade routes. 

(I) Safad's location on a high mountain provides it with 
an extremely defensible position. The strategic value of 
the site was a prime consideration when it was made 
into a fortress by the Crusaders thus they considered 
that it would protect the whole of Galilee {De 
Construction Castri Saphet, Huygens ed. 1981, 42-3, 
lines 243-7). On the other hand both Baysan and 
Tiberias are located on low level sites and were 
extremely vulnerable to attack. In this connection it is 
worth stating that this area of Palestine was subject to 
attacks from the Mongols and it is notable that the 
battle of *Ayn Jalut took place near Baysan. 

(2) The destruction of both Acre and Haifa as part of the 
Mamluk policy of destroying coastal cities meant that 
Galilee was left without any significant urban centres. 
Baysan was too small and too far south to compensate 
for the loss of Acre whilst Tiberias was unable to 
recover from the sacking by Khwarazmian tribesmen in 
the 1240's. Safed therefore appears to have filled a 

(3) A number of interconnected economic factors 
favoured the growth of Safed over its more ancient 
rivals. During the early part of the Mamluk period there 
is some evidence that the economy of Baysan was 
undergoing a revival based on the sugar Industry (Ibn 
Shaddad ed. Dahan, 136) and its location on the Cairo 
Damascus trade route (cf Hartmann 1910, 694-702; 

The Towns of Palestine Under Muslim Rule 

1918, 54). Physical evidence of this revival can be 
found in the thousands of sugar pots recovered from 
die former Craader castle (Seligman 1996, 45) and the 
construction £f the caravanserai to the west of the town 
in AD 1308 (Mayer 1932, 96, No.l, Petersen 2001, 
1 15-7). Howevertoth of these sources of income seem 
to have declined bylhe fifteenth century. The decline 
of the sugar industry in\die fifteenth century has been 
noted by a number offfnedieval and modern authors 
(see for example Qalqakhartdi Subh IV, 188, 190, 192 
and Ashtor 1981; 1983, 2&6). The decline is generally 
unexplained though it seems likely that it was 
connected with the occurrence of plagues in the mid- 
fourteenth century and later. It has been estimated that 
the plagues reduced the population of the region by a 
third (Dolls 1977, 62, 159; 1981, 416-7). This would 
have had a particularly severe effect on labour 
intensive agriculture such as sugar cane 
which needed large numbers of workers both for 
planting and harvesting. Maqrizi observed the effect of 
the plague on agriculture in general and stated 'when 
harvest time came very few labourerk were found on 
the land. The amirs promised the peasants half the 
harvest, but they found no one to he\p them' (trans. 
Quatremere II, 77#C In the light of such comments.u 
seems likely thaphe plague was a major\factor in the 
decline of the sugar industry and the towns and villages 

dependant on that^hdustry. 


s - 

[The reverse effect of the plague was that it would have 
favoured agriculture that was not labour intensive, in 
particular sheep rearing. The mountainous areas around 
Safed, and in Galilee as a whole, were ideally suited to 
sheep fanning and its is not surprising that by the 
sixteenth century the town had become noted for its 
production of wool (Cohen and Lewis 1978, 54?^D-1). 

4) The Mamluks favoured the quickest and most 
route between Cairo and Damascus. In the early parftrf 
Mamluk rule (i.e. thirteenth and fourteenth centuries) 
the main trade route appears to have been via Baysan 
and Jisr al-Majami'a. In the fifteenth century the main 
route was further north via Safed and Jisr Banat Yaqub. 

The reasons for this change are not known though it may 
be assumed that the decline of Baysan and growth of 
Safed played their part. The construction of the new 
caravanserai at Khan al-Tujjar (Suq al-Khan) by the 
Damascene merchant al-Mizza in the early fifteenth 
century ensured that the new northern route by-passed 
Tiberias which consequently lost its chance of recovery. 
It is noticeable that the only other example of urban 
development in the area apart from Safed is Kafr Kanna 
which is located within six kilometres of Khan al-Tujjar. 
By the sixteenth century Kafr Kanna had all the attributes 
of a town though unfortunately little is known about its 
condition in the fifteenth century. 

Ottoman Period (fig. 39) 

Many of the processes, which had begun in the Mamluk 
period continued during the first century of Ottoman rule 
and for the first time quantifiable data is available (see 
Appendix 1). For example the Ottoman documents 
provide the first detailed evidence for the discrepancy 
between the new urban centres of Safed and Kafr Kanna 
and the former towns of Tiberias and Baysan 6 . Although 
Kafr Kanna was counted as a village in the Ottoman 
documents it had a population of over two and a half 
thousand in 1596 whilst the growth of Safed was even 
more spectacular with a population of 12,450 in 1596-7. 
By contrast Tiberias had a population of little more than 
three hundred people at the end of the sixteenth century 
and Baysan's population was only a little over two 
hundred. During this period Baysan was no longer even 
the administrative centre of a wilayet and instead was 
tiply one of a number of villages in the Ottoman nahiya 
Ghawr in the liwa of Safed 6 . The only urban 
developments which can be specifically attributed to this 
period are the attempt to rebuild Tiberias and the growth 
of N izareth. The development of Tiberias was based on 
the ultivatio n of the silk worm and the hot springs, 
Uowiver for~"uTrtarowir'reasons the project failed. The 
grovfth of Nazareth from a population of 245 at the 
beginning of the sixteenth century to 1515 at the end may 
be indicative of its position on the Cairo Damascus road 
or may beShe result of increasing numbers of Christian 
pilgrims. ! 

Baysan / Scythopobs (Appendix 1, Table 2) 

The first major excavation was conducted by the 
University of Pennsylvania Museum and concentrated on 
the tell (Tell Baysan/Tell al-Husn) which staWs at the 
"centre of the site. The primary concern of the Excavations 
was tn*e\discovery of early remains (Iron Ageftuid earlier) 
relating tc\Biblical Beth Shean however th/ latest layers 
Ms site related to the Byzantine and Uoteyyad periods 
and~we»HJuaished separately (Fitzgerald 1931). The 
same expeditioV~al5c»--undertook excavations on Tell 
Iztaba to the noVth where a Byzantine monastery was 
uncovered (Fittgehdd 1931). Sjince 1948 a number of 
Israeli excavations have^aJseBTlace most of which were 
concerned with uncovering the remains of the classical 
city. The frequency and scale of these excavations was 
increased after 1 986 as part of an initiative to develop the 
site and town as a major tourist destination undertaken by 
the Israel Antiquities Authority and the Hebrew 
University (for a review of these excavations see 
especially ESI 1 1 and Tsafrir and Foerster 1997). The 
cumulative results of these excavations have been the 
uncovering of major monuments of the classical /Roman 
period including an amphitheatre, hippodrome, theatre, 

* It is interesting that both Tiberias (Tabariyya) and Acre ('Akka) 
retained their status as administrative centres of nahiyas within the liwa 
of Safed. 


Andrew Petersen 

odeon, nympheum, temples, bathhouses, colonnaded 
streets and various public monuments (Fig. 40). In the 
process of uncovering these major monuments consid- 
erable evidence of later Byzantine and Umayyad 
occupation was uncovered terminating with the 
earthquake of 18* January AD749. This has meant that 
the site is one of the best available documented examples 
of the transition from Classical Antiquity to early Islam. 
In addition there is also evidence of occupation beyond 
the earthquake into the medieval and Ottoman periods 
although in general this has received less attention. 


In the third century BC the Ptolemies established a 
Hellenistic town on the site which was given the status of 
a polis under the Seleucids and given the name Nysa- 
Scythopolis. The origin of the name Scythopolis is 
obscure though it remained the official name of the town 
until the Umayyad period when the Semitic name Baysan 
was revived. In 63 BC the city was annexed as part of the 
Roman province of Judaea and later became one of the 
Decapolis (league of Ten Cities) of which it was the 
largest member. In from the early fifth century the town 
was the capital of Palaestrina Secunda. The importance of 
the city during the Byzantine period was reinforced by its 
being the seat of a Metropolitan bishop and it was also 
noted for its learning, thus the hagiographer Cyril of 
Scythopolis came from the city. 

The city may have been incorporated into Islamic 
territory as early as 634 under the leadership of Khalid 
ibn al-Walid who defeated a Byzantine army in the 
vicinity. In any case the town was certainly under Muslim 
control by 636 when Shurahbil ibn Hasana occupied the 
region of the Jordan river (Tabari ed. Guidid, I, 2397; 
trans Friedman 1992, 183). After the conquest the 
inhabitants of the city were obliged to give money and 
crops as tribute and to give half of the houses of the city 
to the Arabs. Administratively the town was now part of 
the Jund al-Urdunn which replaced the former Byzantine 
administrative district of Palaestina Secunda. Little is 
known of the history of the town in the Fatimid and 
Abbasid periods though the tenth century geographer al- 
Muqaddasi described it as a flourishing city that produces 
all the rice that is consumed within the provinces of al- 
Urdunn and Filastin He also noted that the mosque stood 
in the market place and that many men of piety make 
their home in this town (1963, 180). In 1099 AD the 
Crusaders captured the town (which they called Bethsan) 
and made it the centre of a barony though they transferred 
the archi- episcopal see to Mount Tabor and then to 
Nazareth (Pringle, Churches, 1998, 63-4). In 1154 al- 
Idrissi described the town as very small with a lot of palm 
trees (ed. Gildmeister, 41). After the battle of Hattin the 
city returned to Muslim hands except for a brief period in 
1217. However by this lime the town appears to have 
been in a worse condition poor condition than that 
described by al-Idrissi half a century ealier, thus Yaqut 
al-Hamawi (died AD1225) states that there were only two 
palm trees (without dates) in the town where foimcily 

there had been many (Beirut. 1955, 76). It is not clear to 
what extent the town was effected by the Mongol 
invasions of the thirteenth century or their defeat at 
nearby 'Ayn Jalut in 1260. Under the Mamluks there 
appears to have some revival of the fortunes of the town 
due to its location on the postal and trade routes between 
the twin capitals of Cairo and Damascus (see for example 
the construction of Khan al-Ahmar below). It was also a 
regional centre for the cultivation and processing of sugar 
(Ashtor 1981, 93) . Evidence for the recovery can be seen 
in the fact that the town was made the capital of the 
wiiaya in the second frontier province of Damascus 
(Sou'rdel-Thoumine EI 2). Nevertheless the recovery 
appears to have been fairly limited thus Abu al-Fida (died 
AD 1321) described Baysan as 'a small town without 
walls' (ed. Reinaud & de Slane, 242). The revival in the 
fortunes of the town does not appear to have Continued 
into the Ottoman period when it is described as a village 
(qarya) with a population of 210 in the nahiya Ghawr 
within the liwa of 'Ajlun (Hiltteroth and Abdulfattah 
1977, 168). 


This brief review of the history of the Baysan could in 
many ways be seen as typical of many similar towns in 
Palestine with a gradual decline from the status of a great 
city to a village with most of the decline occurring under 
Muslim rule. However the evidence of archaeology 
presents a more detailed portrait and perhaps indicates 
some of the mechanisms by which this change took place. 

Byzantine Period 

The form of the Byzantine period town was essentially 
that of the Roman city with a few modifications. The 
centre of the town remained the area at the foot of tell al- 
Husn with suburbs developing on the plateau to the west 
and south. There is even evidence of restoration of 
Roman monuments after the earthquake of 363 AD and 
the construction of new public buildings and monuments 
to deal with an increasing population. However obvious 
symbols of paganism such as the temples were destroyed 
whilst churches and monasteries were built in their stead 
(a church was built on the remains of the Temple of Zeus 
on the tell and churches were built on tell Iztaba on the 
north bank of Nahal 'Amal). Popular places of 
entertainment with pagan overtones slowly went out of 
use (the theatre ceased to function in the sixth century 
(Mazor and Bar Nathan 1994, 107-8), the Odeon was 
destroyed in 506/7 AD and the amphitheatre (formerly 
hippodrome) appears to have fallen out of use in the fifth 
century Tsafrir and Foerster 1997) though bathhouses 
continued to thrive and a major new bathhouse (the west 
bathhouse) was established in the city centre. 

' The city centre temple was destroyed sometime before 404 AD. the 
Temple of Zeus was destroyed in the latter pan of the fifth century, the 
temrie next to the theatre went out of use in the fourth century (Tsafrir 
and Foerster 1997. 109-110). 


The Towns of Palestine Under Muslim Rule 

Under the Romans there had been freestanding gates 
marking the entrance to the city. At some point during the 
Byzantine period the gates were joined together by a city 
wall that remained standing until the earthquake of AD 


Umayyad Period 

The archaeology of the Umayyad period in Baysan is 
particularly interesting because of the earthquake of 749 
which produced a destruction layer which seals the 
remains of the city in the late Umayyad period. At other 
sites it is usually impossible to distinguish between the 
material remains of the Umayyad and Abbasid periods 
which in historical terms are sharply differentiated (i.e. 
the shift of political power eastwards from Damascus to 
Baghdad). Similarly at other sites it is often difficult to 
distinguish between late Byzantine and early Umayyad 
remains, however at Baysan the terminus anti quern of 
749 AD means that it is also easier to define preceding 
phases with some degree of precision. 

City Centre 

For reasons discussed above (i.e. tourism and heritage) 
the centre of the Roman town has been the subject of a 
massive archaeological programme and it is in this area 
that the majority of Umayyad remains have been 
excavated in an attempt to uncover earlier Roman 
monuments. A large range of Umayyad period structures 
have been excavated in this area including two pottery 
workshops, a textile dyeing area, a metal workshop, a 
lime kiln, an aqueduct several water mills and most 
spectacular of all a shopping street complete with arcades 
and a monumental gateway decorated with glass mosaic 
(Figs. 40-41). With the exception of the arcaded shopping 
street all of these structures are of an industrial nature and 
are a contrast to the monumental and public buildings 
which occupied this area in the Roman period. Indeed 
some of the Umayyad period installations indicate a 
systematic destruction of earlier structures, thus hall C of 
the West bathhouse was used as a lime kiln at this time 
(ESI 6, 1988. II; ESI 7-8, pp.22). Similarly the 
frigidarium of the east bathhouse became a dyeing 
installation during this period (ESI 11, pp 36-7). Also 
parts of the city centre were used as a graveyard, thus the 
crescent shaped area identified as the Sigma contained 
four hundred burials that the excavators concluded were 
almost certainly Muslim (Bar-Nathan and Mazor 1992. 
43-44, Tsafrir and Foerster 1997, 137). 

The most obviously industrial buildings discovered 
within the complex include the two pottery workshops, 
one in the theatre and one in the former Byzantine agora 
which were linked by a path made of clay and potsherds. 
The workshop built into the theatre contained four pottery 
kilns and a vat for wetting the clay. The workshop in the 
agora contained three kilns and a two storey building with 
potters wheel which functioned as a workshop. 

It is worth making some note of the presence of water 
powered flour mills in the centre of the ancient city. One 
was located 'on top of a broad limestone pavement 
leading to Palladius street' (ESI U, 46, ESI 17.16) and 
two were uncovered above the propylaeum which 
connected Palladius Street with the baths (ESI 17, 20). It 
is also likely that the aqueduct uncovered north of the 
theatre (ESI 17, 7) had some part in supplying the mills 
though this has yet to be proved. The location of mills in 
this area is to be explained by the wadi (Nahal Parod) 
which runs in the valley between the tell and the plateau 
to the south. However the presence of mills in the area 
which formerly constituted the city centre further 
suggests that this area had become industrial. 

The same circumstances which favoured the 
establishment of the mills in the Umayyad period (i.e. 
water supply) had earlier allowed the construction of the 
two bathhouses which functioned in the Roman and 
Byzantine period. The fact that the bathhouses did not 
continue or were re-used for some other purpose in the 
Umayyad period is unusual and has been commented on 
by Tsafrir and Foerstrer (1997, 137) who state 'the 
disappearance of the bath houses does call for an 
explanation, as [elsewhere] bathhouses functioned 
throughout the Umayyad period* . 

The one building which, at first, appears to contradict the 
general decline of the city centre from a civic area to an 
industrial zone is the Umayyad shopping street (Fig,41) 
(previously dated to the Byzantine period see Tsafrir and 
Foerster 1997, 123 and n. 163). This building complex 
comprises a row of twenty-two shop units with a portico 
at front and back. Approximately in the middle of this 
row of buildings there is a monumental portico with 
mosaic inscriptions on either side. One of the inscriptions 
is the shahada (Muslim declaration of faith 'There is no 
god but Allah...') and the other inscription states that the 
building was erected by the governor of the province of 
al-Urdunn, Ishaq ibn Qabisa during the reign of the 
Umayyad caliph Hisham (Khamis 1997,45-64; 2001, 
159-76) 9 . Although this clearly indicates that the building 
was a prestigious state-sponsored project the design of 
the building clearly indicates a commercial use. This is 
confirmed by finds from within two of the shop units 
which show that they functioned as jewellers. 

Outside City Centre 

For reasons discussed above the majority of 
archaeological excavations have concentrated on the city 
centre which contains most of the Roman public 
monuments. The plateau to the West and South of the 
centre contains fewer monuments and is also, to a certain 
extent, overlain by buildings of the modern town. 
Nevertheless a number of excavations have taken place. 

« Probably the best documented example of continuity is the bath house 

at Hammai Gader (Gadara) which includes an Umayyad inscription 

dated to the reign of Mu'awiyya (Di Segni 1999). 

' Probably during the year 120 AH i.e. Dec. AD 737- Dec738 (Khamis 


Andrew Petersen 

in particular in the area between the theatre and the 
hippodrome, which have revealed a residential quarter 
which nourished from the Byzantine to the Umayyad 
period. Although it has been assumed that the main phase 
of development in this area was the Byzantine period 
(e.g. Peleg ESI 2, 1983, 13-1 4) recent excavations have 
shown that there was considerable high quality 
construction work after the Byzantine conquest. For 
example an area recently excavated to the west of the 
ampfctheatre/hippodrome revealed a large structure with 
an open stone pave courtyard and mosaic floors which 
was dated to the Umayyad period (the mosaics were 
dated by potsherds of the 6*-early eighth century sealed 
beneath the floor) (Avshalom-Gorni 2000, 29*). There 
has also been considerable archaeological activity to the 
east of the amphitheatre/hippodrome particularly in the 
area around the Crusader citadel and Ottoman period 
serai. Of particular interest is a high status building 
discovered in the north moat of the Crusader castle which 
had colourful mosaic floors and a hypocaust which has 
been dated to the Byzantine/Umayyad period (Plate 
nXSeligman, ESI 15 43-4). To the north of the serm 
another high-status building was uncovered also with 
mosaics (black lozenges on a white background) which 
was founded during the early Islamic period (Avashalom- 
Gorni 2000, 30*). Further south on the eastern edge of 
the modern town recent excavations revealed a series of 
courtyard buildings which can be dated to the Byzantine 
and Umayyad periods. Although the dating of these 
•luxurious residential dwellings' is problematic it is 
apparent that they continued in use until the earthquake of 
749 AD (Sion ESI/HA 1 12, 40*-4 1 *). 

The other area where there appears to have been major 
residential development in the Umayyad periods is Tell 
al-Husn. During this period the tell was enclosed within a 
wall and a small mosque was built on the ruins of an 
earlier building (Fitzgerald 1931, 11-17, P1XXIII, 2; 
Mazar 1995, 59-60). By contrast the area of Tell Iztaba 
appears to have suffered a decline during this period with 
buildings being abandoned (Mazor and Bar Nathan 1994, 
137). Although by way of caution it should be mentioned 
that buildings in this area were churches, monastery and a 
synagogue none of which would have been expected to 
flourish at this time (cf Tsafrir and Foerstrer 1997, 

Abbasid and F.timid Periods 

The fate of Baysan after the earthquake of 749 is 
substantially less well less well known than the preceding 
Umayyad and Byzantine periods. The reason is that the 
post earthquake remains lie closer to the surface and are 
quite distinct from the classical buildings which the 
excavators wished to identify and preserve. Nevertheless 
a few structures have been identified together with 
numerous fragmentary walls. 

The most conspicuous building of the Abbasid period is 
the rectangular mosque located to the south of the 
Nymphaeum. Originally this building was thought to 

belong to the Mamluk period (BSIfi, 32) but subsequent 
research has shown that it mutt have been built in the 
Abbasid period (ESI 19, 29). It is unclear to what extent 
the industrial activity in the city centre was continued 
after the 749 AD earthquake though it certainly appears 
to have been reduced. 

There is an assertion by Tsafrir and Foerster (1997) that 
the centre of the town shifted to the plateau in the 
Abbasid period. It is not clear whether this statement is 
based on the evidence of Abbasid remains in this area or 
simply the assumption that the centre moved to this new 
location sometime between the earthquake and the 
construction of the Crusader castle circa 1099. 

One building which might hold the key to a re-location is 
the mosque of Forty Martyrs (Jami al-Arbain) located 
250m north of the serai (Fig. 16). As it stands the 
building dates to the nineteenth century (it was rebuilt in 
the 1870s) but its form with a square minaret suggests 
that it may be considerably older. An inscription 
previously incorporated into the building but now lost 
gives a hijri date which has been interpreted as 806 AD. 

The only area where there is evidence of significant 
construction during this period is on the summit of Tell 
al-Husn where a number of houses and a hall abutting the 
enclosure wall were built (Fitzgerald 1931: Mazar ESI 18 

Crusader, Ayyubid and Mamluk Periods 

The Crusader conquest of Baysan marks another defining 
point in the history of the town marked by the 
construction of the castle. Apart from the castle enclosed 
with a water filled moat there is little in the town that can 
be attributed to the period of Crusader rule (Seligman ESI 
15, 44-7). There is evidence for re-use of the castle 
during the Mamluk period with installations and pottery 
connected with the sugar industry built in the northern 
part of the moat. In the later part of the Mamluk period 
the citadel had largely collapsed although one of the 
surviving rooms appears to have functioned as a smithy. 

Evidence of the medieval period is evident elsewhere on 
the site although in general it cannot be related to specific 
buildings. One Mamluk building which has been 
identified is located to the south of the castle and serai 
and consisted of six rooms with earth floors. One of the 
rooms included a pit containing a stack of nearly 30 
fritware bowls (Building I, Sion 2000, 40*-41*). It also 
appears that Tel al-Husn was redeveloped during this 
period with a new wall and gateway erected on the 
remains of the early Islamic wall. In addition to the 
fortifications a large building was erected on the north of 
the tell during this period (Mazar 19995, 59-60). 

The only monumental building which can be attributed to 
this period is Khan al-Ahmar located to the north of the 
town and dated to AD 1308 (Fig. 18) (Mayer 1932, 96, 
No. 1 , Petersen 2001 , 1 ! <5-7). 


1 fife * V»»* 

i an 


ie is. oayMw i a 
Early Islamic 


~~ J — 


Early Ottoman 


A (134 ha.) 

A (134 ha.) 





A (churches) 


A (mosques) 


A (mosque) 

Secular public 





A (shops) 

A (shops) 

A (khan) 




A= Archaeological Evidence, H= Historical Evidence 
Early Ottoman Period 

Although a few remains of the Ottoman period have been 
recovered these mostly appear to date from the later 
period and there is nothing that can with any certainty be 
dated to the sixteenth century. 

One of the main observations from the above summary is 
that archaeological evidence suggests considerable 
continuity from the Byzantine to the Umayyad period. In 
addition to this general observation there are a few more 
specific points which may have wider implications. 
Firstly it is noticeable that no mosque of the Umayyad 
period has been found in the area of the city centre and 
the only Umayyad period mosque is that located on the 
tell. The second point is that there is an absence of 
bathhouses of the Umayyad period 10 despite the fact that 
elsewhere bathhouses are a feature characteristic of this 
period. The third point is that there is considerable 
evidence for industrial activity in the Umayyad period 
whereas the evidence for Byzantine industry is restricted 
to a single glass workshop. The above points all indicate 
the centre of the city under the Umayyads had shifted 
elsewhere. One suggestion is that the centre had shifted to 
the plateau to the south in the vicinity of the later 
Crusader castle although there is no positive evidence of 
this. Another suggestion is that the area on top of the teU 
had become the administrative centre of the city in the 
same way that Islamic Ayla became the administrative 
centre of Ayla. 

The archaeological evidence for the Abbasid period is 
very limited and provides little to support an urban status. 
On the other hand the historical evidence suggests that 
Baysan was still a city of considerable importance in the 
Abbasid and Fatimid periods. The conclusion must be 
that either the historical accounts exaggerate the 
importance of the site from the mid-eighth to eleventh 
centuries or that that the physical remains lie in an area 
which has not been subjected to intensive archaeological 
investigation (eg in the area of the modern town). 

■ With the possible exception of Ac structure located within the north 
moat of the Crusader castle. 

The archaeological evidence for the Mamluk and 
Ottoman periods is also sparse and is generally restricted 
to the area in the vicinity of the Crusader castle. During 
the Mamluk period the site may have had a residual status 
of a town though under the new Ottoman administration 
it was officially recognized as a village (qarya). 


This settlement is located to the north-east of Nazareth 
(Palestine Grid 1822 2393) (Jaffa Research Centre 1991, 


The site is of some antiquity and is often regarded as the 
place where Jesus turned water into wine (John 2, 1-2) 
though this was also thought to have taken place at 
Khirbat Qana several kilometres to the north (Pringle 
1998, 162-4). One of the earliest descriptions is by the 
pilgrim Willibald who visited sometime around AD725 
and commented on the large church (Tobler and Moltmer 
1877/80, I, 260). In the eleventh century the site was 
visited by Nasir-i Khusraw who described the strong gate 
and beautiful monastery (ed. Scheffer , 18, 59). During 
the period of the Crusades (i.e twelfth and thirteenth 
centuries) Khirbat Qana was regarded as the place of 
Jesus' miracle although from the fourteenth century 
onwards Kafr Kanna was again the preferred site. None 
of the early descriptions of the site refer to it as anything 
but a village though by the sixteenth century it had 
become a town with a large mixed population of Jews 
and Muslims, a qadi and urban market taxes (sec 
Appendix 1 Tables 9 and 10). 

Unfortunately there has been little archaeological 
investigation of the place and it is not clear why it 
became so large in the sixteenth century. 


Nazareth is first mentioned in the New Testament (Luke 
1. 26-38) as the place where Jesus grew up (77/?, 194). 
The first church was established there some time in the 
fourth century. By the eighth century there were both 


Andrew Petersen 

Table 16. Nazareth Summary 



Early Islamic 



w&tvf Ottonum 


H (Pop. 1515) 



A (church) 

A (church) 

A (church) 

A (church) 

A (church) 

Secular public 




A= Archaeological Evidence, H= Historical Evidence 

Muslims and Christians living in the city. The fact that 
there were two churches in the town and the Christians 
were required to pay a poll tax (jizya) suggests that the 
majority of the population was Christian. After the 
Crusader conquest in AD 1099. Nazareth was designated 
as a special pilgrimage centre although it had already 
been an important Christian shrine before that time. The 
town became the seat of an archbishop and a new 
cathedra) was built . In 661 AH (1263 A.D.) Baybars 
ordered the destruction of the church at Nazareth (Mujir 
al-Din trans. Sauvaire, 237). With the return to Muslim 
rule the town lost some of the status it enjoyed during 
Crusader rule. Al-Dimashqi, writing at the beginning of 
the fourteenth century describes Nazareth as a city 
(madina) belonging to the province of Safad and 
inhabited by Yemeni Jews (ed. Mehren, 212). Khali! al- 
Zahiri, writing in the fifteenth century, lists Nazareth with 
Kafr Kanna and Minya within the mamlaka of Safad as 
villages big enough to be considered as towns (ed. 
Ravaisse, 44). Qalqashandi writes that the site was the 
administrative centre of a wilaya within the mamlaka of 
Safad (ed.Ali.IV, 240-241) 

In the Ottoman tax registers Nazareth is listed as a village 
in nahiya Tabariyya (Tiberias) within liwa Safad. 
(Hutteroth and Ahdulfattah 1977, 188). During the 
century the population rose from 49 households in 1525- 
1526 to 232 households in 1574 (Lewis 1965, 421). By 
the end of the century the population had risen to 303 
households (total population approximately 1515) of 
whom only 17 were registered as Christian (Hutteroth 
and Abdulfattah 1977, 188). Nevertheless only one imam 
(as well as a mu'adhdhin and a khatib) were recorded for 
the period between 1555-1556 (Cohen & Lewis 1965, 


Unfortunately very little is know of the archaeology of 
the town with the exception of the churches (see for 
example Dauphin 1998. 683-4 No. 173 and Pringle 1993, 


The available historical evidence indicates that the town 
had a special religious status which was enhanced under 
Christian rule (Byzantine or Crusader). The fact that no 
fortifications are recorded for the site in any period 
suggests that it was never of great importance outside the 
religious sphere. 



The city of Safed is located in the mountains 40 km east 
of Acre and 20 km. north of Tiberias (Palestine Grid 1 96 
263). The name of the city is derived from the Hebrew 
word, sefat- lookout post, presumably a reference to the 
extensive views from the hilltop. It is not mentioned in 
the Old Testament but the Talmud refers to it as a place 
where fires were lit during festivals (Avi-Yonah 1971, 
626-632). Apparently this was fortified by Josephus in 
66AD in preparation for a Roman attack. There are no 
references to Safed during the Byzantine period and the 
only indication of its existence during the early Islamic 
period is the use of the nisba al-Safadi in the Cairo 
Geniza documents (Gil 1992, 213-4 and Amitai-Preiss in 
EI2, 757). 

In the eleventh century there appears to have been a small 
village (Burj al-Yatim) on the site with a tower built by 
the Muslims (Ibn Shaddad, 146 ed. Dahan). The village 
had a mixed population of Jews and Muslims as indicated 
by the fact that it contained both a mosque and a 
synagogue {De Conslructione Castri Saphet, Huygens ed. 
1981, 38, lines 125-6). It is not clear when the Crusaders 
first established a fortress at the site though it was 
certainly before 1168 when it was transferred to the 
control of the Templars (RRH no.447, 1 168). According 
to Muslim sources the castle was established as early as 
1102 and in 1140 it was re-built by King Fulk the 
constable of Tiberias. In 1 1 87-88 AD in the aftermath of 
Hattin it was captured by Salah al-Din and given as a fief 
(iqta) to one of his commanders. Over thirty years later in 
617 AH (1219-20 AD) the site was acquired by al- 
Muazzam 'lsa who destroyed the fortress. Twenty years 


The Towns of Palestine Under Muslim Rule 

later, in 1240, the site was returned to the Templars who 
began an ambitious programme of reconstruction. The 
rebuilt castle was provided with a garrison of 1,700 
which could expand the 2,200 in times of war. In July 
1266 AD (664 AH) the castle was captured by the 
Mamluk Sultan Baybars who proceeded to re-fortify it 
(the process was completed by his successor al-Mansur 
ibn Qalawun). 

By 1266 (i.e the time of Baybars conquest) Safad had 
acquired the status of a town with its own burgess court 
and a faubourg attached to the castle. During the Mamluk 
period the town was established as a regional centre 
provided with hospitals, bathouses, mosques and 
religious schools (Mayer et al. 1950, 41). Abu al-Fida, 
writing in the early fourteenth century describes Safad as 
a town of medium size with suburbs and gardens 
extending over three hills (Abu al-Fida, ed. Renaud de 
Slane, 243). After 1348 the population appears to have 
declined as a result of the devastation caused by the 
Black Death (Amitai-Preiss in EI2 , 758). 

The importance of the town was recognized by the 
Ottomans who established Safed as administrative capital 
of a liwa in the early sixteenth century. During the first 
fifty years of Ottoman rule the population more than 
doubled rising from 926 households in 932 AH (1525- 
6AD) to 1,931 in 975 AH (1567-8AD) partly as a result 
of the Ottoman policy of accepting Jews expelled from 
the Ottoman peninsula (Cohen and Lewis 1978, 155-161. 
The city was divided into four main Muslim quarters (Al- 
Akrad, Al-Sawawin. Al-Ahmar, and al-Wata) and a 
Jewish quarter subdivided into twelve smaller units. The 
influence of Jews on the economy of the town is 
significant as can be seen from the Ottoman attempts to 
move rich Jews from Safed to Cyprus ' restore the 
commercial prosperity of the island after the expulsion of 
the Venetians' (Lewis 1952, 29). Textiles were the 
principal industry involving both the production and 
dyeing of cloth. The town was particularly suitable as it 
had a plentiful supply of water which was important both 
for washing the wool and to power fulling hammers. 
Some idea of the growth of the industry can be gained by 
the fact that in the thirty years between 1526 and 1556 
there was an increase in the number dye houses in the city 
horn two to four (Cohen and Lewis 1 978, 60). 


The earliest remains excavated at Safed date from the 
Middle to Late Bronze age and are associated with burial 
caves (Stefanski, 1987). Other pre-medieval remains 
include architectural fragments that have been identified 
with a third century AD synagogue. In general, however, 
there is very little archaeological evidence of pre- 
Crusader settlement at the site. 

The focus of the Crusader period settlement was the 
castle which occupied the summit of an elongated hill. 
The castle had a concentric plan (approx. 170 x 300m) 
which followed the. natural contours of the hill (Pringle 

1985). Although the historical sources indicate that the 
castle served as the focus of an urban settlement there is 
no evidence that this extended beyond the walls of the 
fortress (cf Pringle 1993-, H, 206-7). 

In the Mamluk period the castle remained an important 
aspect of the town although the concentric plan of the 
Crusaders had been enhanced by the addition of a huge 
cylindrical keep. By this time the town itself was located 
on less hilly ground to the south west and east of the 

The layout of the Mamluk town was based on a number 
of quarters each with its own Congregational mosque 
(Fig. 43). Three of these mosques have survived (at least 
until 1948) Jami al-Ahmar, Jami al-Jukander and Jami' 
al-Arbain. The main congregational mosque Jami al- 
Ahmar was built on the orders of Baybars in 674 AH 
(1274-5 AD) and restored in the fourteenth and 
seventeenth centuries. It stands in its own quarter to the 
south of the citadel and may indicate an attempt by 
Baybars to initiate an urban settlement in this area (cf 
Ramla). Other Mamluk period mosques include Jami al- 
Jukander (or Iskander) built between 1309-1 1 AD which 
is located in the Kurdish quarter (Haret al-Akrad) and 
Jami' al-Arbain built in 1453 AD and located in Haret al- 
Wata to the east of Jami al- "Ahmar . In addition there arc 
a number of other mosques whose date of construction is 
not known though they may have Mamluk origins such as 
the Jami al-Suq, which as its name implies stands in the 
market to the south of the Jewish quarter. 

In addition to the congregational mosques there are a 
number of other Mamluk religious buildings including 
two Zawiyas and a pseudo-Biblical shrine. The two 
Zawiyas include Zawiya Banat Hamid built in 1372 and 
located near the Red Mosque (Jami al-Ahmar) and 
Zawiyat ibn Habib (exact date of construction not known) 
located to the east of the citadel. Both the Zawiyas are 
architecturally impressive though the most significant 
construction is the shrine known as 'The Cave of the 
Daughters of Jacob' (Mugharrat Banat Ya'qub). This 
cave is located in the cemetery to the south of the citadel 
and includes a mosque, the funerary monuments of 
prominent Mamluk officials and their families and the 
shrine itself. Above the entrance to the mosque there is a 
foundation inscription stating that 'this place of 
pilgrimage' was built on the orders of the Mamluk 
governor of the town. 

In addition to the religious buildings there are a number 
of other structures in the town which may be of Mamluk 
origin. For example Makhouly, an inspector working for 
the Depatment of Antiquities of Palestine stated that the 
now vanished Khan Ni'amat al-Dabbur was 'purely 
medieval work with finely dressed masonry and groined 
vaults' (PAM 28.8.44). More recently an excavation in 
the Old Jewish quarter (i.e. to the west of the citadel) 
revealed parts of a large vaulted building which was 
thought to belong to the 'Khan of the Jews* built in the 
mid sixteenth century (Damati 2000). 


Andrew Petersen 




Secular public 


Table 17. Safe d Summary 

Early Islamic 



H (church) 


A (50 ha.) 

Early Ottoman 

A (50 ha.) 

A (mosgues) 



A (mosgues) 

A (khan) 



A (khan) 


A= Archaeological Evidence, H= Historical Evidence 


Although the historical sources indicate that Safed was 
established as an urban centre under the Crusaders it is 
clear from the archaeological evidence that Crusader 
settlement was mostly within the castle and was primarily 
of a military nature. The location of the extant 
buildings (i.e. dispersed around the c.tadel) indicates ; that 
me basic town plan of Safed was formed m AeMnM 
penod though based on the original Crusader 
fortifications In view of me detailed historical 
information available for the town jn the > sixt enth 
century (and earlier) period it should be possible to carry 
out a detailed archaeological survey of the town to 
produce a model of urban development. 

Sepphoris/ Saf uriyya 

This site is located on a hilltop in Galilee approximately 
7km north of Nazareth (Palestine Grid 1756 2399). The 
centre of the town forms an acropolis with a lower town 
to the east (Plate 19). 


Similarly there are few references to the town during the 
early Islamic period though there are enough ^*>g?* 
thai it was of regional importance thus al-Baladhun (Him 
and Murgotten 1916-24) describes the terms under which 
it surrendered to the early Muslims. Daring the Umayyad 
period a mint was active at the site. There is ^mention 
of the site during the Abbasid and Faumid penods though 
the place does appear to have a Jewish community in the 
eleventh century (Gil 1992, 323, n.89). In Je twdfth 
century a small castle (Pringle 1997. 92) and a church 
(Folda 1991; Pringle 1993- II. 209-18) were established 
at the site by the Crusaders. Although the church is larger 
Sum one might expect (Folda 1991, 90) there is no 
evidence that the site was anything more than a village ai 
this time (for example there is no record of a burgess 
court). In 1187 the site was used as a camp by the 
Crusaders prior to the battle of Hattin faaWHA 
456) In April 1263 the settlement was destroyed by the 
Mamluk Sultan Baybars and there is little historical 
information about the site for the remainder of the 
Mamluk period. In the sixteenth century the she was 
classified as a village though it had a large population of 
approximately 2000 (i.e. 400 households) (Hutteroth and 
Abdulfattah, 1977, 188). The village continued to be 
inhabited until 1948. 

At the beginning of the first century BC Sepphons was 
administrative capital of Galilee and J""**"*; 
eminent city of the region until the foundation of Tibenas 
by Herod Antipas in the year 18 AD. Dunng the Roman 
period me city was an important regional centre 
Specially for the Jews who established it as the seat of 
fe Patriarchate and Sanhedrin (Av. Yonah 1971-2). In 
the mid fourth centuries two events had a dramatic 
influence on the fate of the city. The first of thecal, 
was the Jewish revolt against Gallu* Caeasar in AD 35 1/2 
when Sepphoris was used as a base for the rebels 
Following the suppression of the revolt the inhabitants |o 
the city were punished though the extent of this 
punishment is not known. The second event to have a 
detrimental affect on the city was the earthquake of 363 
AD which may have further reduced the size of the 
population. During the Byzantine period the c«y 
remained an important centre and was the seat of a bishop 
though the number of historical sources describing the 

City are !«» numerous than for the Roman Period. 


The first major excavations at Sepphoris were carried out 
bv a team from the University of Michigan in 1931 
(Waterman 1937). More than fifty years later a renewed 
series of excavations was carried out by teams from 
America (Duke University and University of South 
Florida) and Israel (Hebrew University). 

The principal aim of me excavations has been to 
investigate the archaeology of the city in the early Roman 
period and until recently very little attention was paid to 
the archaeology of the later periods". However recent 

» Sec for example Nctzcr and Weiss 'the Byzantine ^aeoloj^l 


363 had. . . lea w a dwindling orsctttonwnt < loos. imj. 


The Towns of Palestine Under Muslim Rule 





Secular public 


TeMe 18, Sepphoris/ Saluriyy a Snmniary 

Early Islamic 

A (church) 



A (bathhouse) 

A (bathhouse) 



Early Ottoman 

H (Pop.2000) 

A= Archaeological Evidence, H= Historical Evidence 

work has shown a considerable amount of repairs after 
the earthquake in 363 AD and the construction of some 
prestigious new buildings such as the 'Nile Festival 
House' (Netzer and Weiss 1995, 166-71). By the late fifth 
or early sixth century the church appears to have assumed 
an important role in urban life with mosaic inscriptions 
recording the renovation of pavements by the bishop 
Eutropius (Weis and Netzer 1995, 43). At least one 
church and a synagogue dating to this period have been 
excavated and it is likely that they both remained in use 
into the early Islamic period. A medium sized bathhouse 
excavated in the central insula was also built in the 
Byzantine period and probably continued in use during 
the early Islamic period (Weis and Netzer 1995, 43). Next 
to the bathhouse a building with two square plastered 
pools was uncovered which was probably constructed in 
the early Islamic period and resembles similar structures 
at Caesarea. There is also evidence for continuity in the 
city's infrastructure, thus the aqueduct leading to the city 
was repaired as late as the eighth century (Syon 1995,49). 
Apparently the end of the Byzantine period is marked by 
a widespread burning. Netzer and Weiss (1995, 176) 
suggest three possible reasons for this, 1) the Persian 
conquest, 2) the Muslim conquest or 3) an earthquake. 
Although the excavators do not offer an opinion as to 
which cause is more likely they date the destruction layer 
to the end of the Byzantine period rather than the early 
Islamic period (Netzer and Weiss 1995, 176). However 
its seems equally possible that the burnt destruction layer 
is a result of the 749 earthquake that caused so much 
devastation in Baysan. Above the destruction layer there 
is evidence for substantial reconstruction, for example in 
several areas a large wall, two metres wide, was erected 
with foundations cut through the burnt destruction layer. 
The excavators interpret this as a city wall which was 
built after the Byzantine period. If the destruction layer is 
dated to the 749 earthquake then the city wall must 
belong to the Abbasid period indicating that the city 
remained important well into the Islamic period. 

The published evidence for post-Byzantine occupation is 
very patchy and generally the dating seems to be on the 
basis of the appearance of a feature or structure rather 
than any independent criteria. For example a recent report 
states 'In the upper stratum, near the surface, were sfcsteral 

walls of poor quality; these remains belong to the final 
phase of construction, ascribed to the Umayyad period' 
(Weiss 1999, 22*). 

In any case the picture of decline during the 'Arab 
period' which is presented in the excavations reports is 
not matched by the finds from the site which includes 
Umayyad coinage. For example a recent report stales that 
glass continued to be used for windows, gaming pieces, 
bracelets and vessels during the early Islamic period. The 
report also notes that glass produced during the Islamic 
period had a more greenish tint than during the Byzantine 
period perhaps indicating a change in technology as 
observed elsewhere in the Islamic world (Fischer and 
McCray 1999, 897-7) 12 . 

The same article also gives some clues why so few 
remains from the Arab period noted in the published 
reports ' When entering the Arab periods, the information 
available to contextualize the artefacts is much more 
sparse. This is due in part to the nature of site deposition 
and formation processes and partly to the lack of 
adequate written sources' (Fischer and McCray 1999. 
897-7). The reference to site deposition and formation 
processes may be an oblique reference to the fact that the 
extensive village of Saffuriyya which existed on the site 
until the 1940s was demolished thus disturbing the upper 
levels of the site. 


It is likely mat the decline of Sepphoris was a continuous 
process originating with the 363 AD earthquake and 
reinforced by the increased importance of nearby 
Nazareth during the Byzantine period. However, the 
archaeological evidence demonstrates that the settlement 
continued to function as a city in the early Islamic period 
and even retained its original street plan . The fact that 

12 Another indication thai Sepphoris may have continued to be an 
importani town before the arrival of the Crusaders is a seventh centur* 
jug found at Haramath Tiberias that has an inscription which refers to a 
Jewish community in Sepphoris (Dothan and Johnson 2000. 103). 
• -The street system seems to have remained partially in use during 
U l( «c cenwrioo, though at » red**! i« e l of maintenance- (Weis and 
Netzer 1995, 43). 

Andrew Petersen 

archaeological investigation has failed to form a coherent 
picture of the site during this period is probably a result 
of disturbed levels and the fact that the interests of the 
excavators has been elsewhere. 

Tiberias/ Tabariyya (Appendix 1, Table 3) 


The city was founded by Herod Antipas in c. 18 AD in 
honour of his patron the Roman emperor Tiberias. The 
new city was laid out on a classical orthogonal plan 
slightly modified to fit the narrow coastal plain. Notable 
buildings in the city included a stadium, a royal palace 
and a great synagogue. In 100 AD the city was annexed 
to the Roman empire becoming a colony during the reign 
of the Emperor Elagabalus (AD 218-222). The status of 
the city was improved at this lime when the Jewish 
Patriarchate and Sanhedrin were transferred here from 
Sepphoris. The city remained the pre-eminent Jewish 
centre in Palestine under the Byzantines until the Muslim 
conquest when Jews were allowed to return to Jerusalem 
(cfGill 1992,284-297). 

In 635 AD the inhabitants of the city surrendered to the 
Muslims led by Shurahbil ibn Hasana. Under the terms of 
the peace (sulh) the inhabitants were guaranteed their 
security and ownership of half of their houses and 
churches. The residents of the city were also obliged to 
hand over a proportion of their crops to the new rulers as 
wei as paying a dinar for each of their animals. The 
agreement also stipulated chat Shurahbil ibn Hasana was 
allowed to reserve for himself the land for a mosque to be 
established. The agreement was apparently broken during 
the time of 'Uthman though it was later re-instated under 
pressure from 'Amr ibn al-'As (cf al Baladhuri ed de 
Goeje, 116). Under the new rulers Tiberias was 
established as capital of the new Muslim province of Jund 
al-'Urdunn which was more or less contiguous with the 
former Byzantine province of Palaestina Secunda thus 
replacing Scythopolis (Baysan) as regional capital. 

The population of the city was a mixture of Jews (both of 
Babylon and Jerusalem), Muslims (both tribal Arabs and 
converts mawali) and Christians (Gill 1992, 284). 
Tiberias remained a prominent centre of Jewish life 
throughout the early Islamic period and was the seat of 
the Yeshiv (institute for higher learning). Likewise the 
city was home to a number of notable Muslim scholars 
during the Umayyad and Abbasid periods (Gill 1992, 
169-174; 436-8). The Christian presence in the city is 
demonstrated by the fact that in c,810 AD there was a 
bishop of Tiberias and five churches (Wilkinson 1997, 

The importance and prosperity of the city during the tenth 
century is confirmed by Muqaddasi who gives the 
following description: 

'Tiberias is the capital of the Jordan Province, and a city 
in the valley of Kana'an. The place is located between the 

mountain and the lake. It is narrow and shut in, unhealthy 
in the summer. Its lenfth is about a farsakh, but it is 
without width. Its market place runs from city gate to city 
gate and the graveyard is upon the mountain. It has eight 
hot springs, where no fuel is needed, and numerous 
basins of hot water. The congregational mosque is large 
and fine, and stands in the market place. Its floor is laid 
with pebbles with columns made of stone joined 

The importance of the city is confirmed by the fact that it 
continued to mint coins until the mid-eleventh century 
(Gill 1992, 367). Muqaddasi mentions various industries 
including the production of paper (Gill 1992, 344). Nasir- 
i Khusraw (ed.Scheffer 16-17) and al-Idrisi both mention 
the production of rush mats in the city, one example of 
which has survived and is preserved in the Benaki 
Museum in Athens (Combe 1939, 339). The town also 
appears to have functioned as a spa town with lepers 
seeking a cure (Gill 1992, 296). 

In 1099 Tiberias was conquered by the Crusaders led by 
Raymond of Tripoli though it was given as a fief to 
Tancred. In 1 187 the Salah al-Din regained control of the 
city and burnt it to prevent its recapture by the Crusaders. 
The town temporarily returned to Crusader control in 
1240 before being sacked by the Khawarzmian troops in 
1247. It appears that the town did not recover after this 
attack and in 1325 the Moroccan traveller Ibn Battuta (ed. 
Defremery and Sanguinetti, I, 132) described it as still in 
ruins. In the early sixteenth century Tiberias had the 
status of capital of a nahiya within the liwa of Safad. The 
town continued to attract visitors attracted by the hot 
baths and & firman dated 1560 AD describes how 2-3000 
people came each year to sample the springs (Heyd 1960, 
140-2). Two years later in 1562 the town was given to 
Joseph Nasi, a Jew of Portuguese origin to promote silk 
cultivation. A new town wall was built (or the old wall 
was repaired) and mulberry trees were planted. Although 
the project failed the Tiberias still had a population of 54 
households (i.e approximately 270 people) at the end of 
the century (Hulieroth and Abdulfattah 1977, 188). 


The modern town of Tiberias comprises the area of the 
Ottoman town enclosed within the wall of Dhahir al- 
'Umar and various suburbs most of which are located on 
the hills above. The ancient city stretches for a distance of 
1 .4 kilometres to the south. South of the ancient city a 
further area known as Hammath Tiberias developed 
around the ancient thermal springs (see Fig. 42). 

Hammath Tiberias 

Serious archaeological work began in the 1920s under the 
direction of Slouschz who conducted an excavation of a 
synagogue in Hammath Tiberias immediately to the north 
of the city walls (Slouschz 1925 and Harrison 1992, 53-4 
for full references). The synagogue was dated to the 4 th 
and 5 th centuries AD though an Arabic/Jewish tombstone 

The Towns of Palestine Under Muslim Rule 


Early Islamic 




Size/ population 

A (112.5 ha.) 

A (124 ha.) 

A (8 ha.) 







A (churches & 


A (churches & 
H (mosque) 

A (church) 

Secular public 


A (bathouses) 







A= Archaeological Evidence, H= Historical Evidence 

dated to 979 AD and found during the excavations 
indicates continued activity in the synagogue in the 
Islamic period (cf references to Jewish lepers in this area 
in Gill 1992, 296). Approximately forty years later 
another synagogue was discovered in the area which also 
appears to have remained in use until the Abbasid period 
(Dothan 1978; Dothan and Johnson 2000). Immediately 
to the west of the synagogue discovered by Slouschz a 
large building of Umayyad date was excavated by Oren 
in 1970. The building consisted of nine rooms including 
one which appears to have functioned as a workshop for 
glazing ceramics (Oren 1971). Further evidence of 
pottery production in the area was revealed in a rescue 
excavation next to the Sea of Galilee which uncovered a 
kiln that functioned between the ninth and tenth centuries 
AD(Damatil993, 112). 

Further north, outside the southern gate of the 
Roman/Byzantine city Foerster excavated a series of 
seven large buildings dated to the Late Byzantine or Early 
Islamic period. 

The Area of the Roman-Byzantine Town 

The Roman city comprised a cardo running 
approximately North-South with free-standing monu- 
mental gates at either end. Significant remains of the 
Roman period include large villa complex and a theatre 
on the slopes of Mount Berenice (Hirschfeld: 1992b, 96- 
7; 1997, 204). There appears to have been significant 
continuity of plan in the following centuries with the 
Roman grid pattern of streets continued until the end of 
the Fatimid period (Hirschfeld 1991, 107). 

In the Byzantine period (sixth century AD) the city was 
enclosed within a wall that included the earlier free 
standing Roman gates. The wall also had some new gates 
such as that located to the west on Mount Berenice 
(Hirschfeld 1992, 96 and 95 Fig.98). Excavations in the 
central section of the cardo revealed a large bathhouse 
that was built in the fourth century but remained in 
continuous use until the eleventh century. The same 
excavations also revealed a vaulted market place built in 
the sixth century that also continued in use into the 
Islamic period (Hirschfeld 1997, 204). More recently a 

side street from the Fatimid period (969-1099 AD) has 
been excavated which included two courtyard houses and 
a triangular building which appears to have been a 
metalwork shop (Hirschfeld and Gutfield 2000, 15-17). 

Evidence for religious life in the early Islamic period is 
provided by a church a synagogue and a large public 
building interpreted as the Great Jewish Academy. The 
church, located on the summit of Mount Berenice next to 
the city wall, was originally established in the sixth 
century (after the city wall?). After the earthquake of 749 
AD the church was rebuilt and remained in use until the 
eleventh century when it appears to have been abandoned 
before being converted for domestic occupation. The 
synagogue, located in the north of the city, was built in 
the sixth century and remained in use until the earthquake 
of 749 when it was rebuilt and finally abandoned some 
time before the thirteenth century. The Great Jewish 
Academy appears to have had an even longer continuity 
of occupation from the 2* century AD until the early 
eleventh century (Hirschfeld 1991, 109). 

Crusader and Mamluk period occupation is generally 
absent from this area with the exception of graves (e.g. 
Area A in Hirschfeld 1997b) and tombs (eg Sitt Sukaina 
in Bernie et al 1992). 

The Area of the Ottoman Town 

Excavations within the Ottoman city have been more 
limited in extent and number. 

One of the objectives of these excavations has been to 
locate the northern wall of the Byzantine/Roman city. 
Excavations on the southern section of the Ottoman city 
walls has indicated that these were built on earlier walls 
which 'are not later than the Early Arab period' (Feig, 
110). Other excavations (not precisely located in the 
published report but north of the Ottoman walls) have 
revealed a 50 metre long section of wall dated to the 
Umayyad period or earlier (Harif 1984). 

A few salvage excavations have taken place which have 
revealed a number of features dating from the early 
Islamic to Ottoman periods. For example one excavation 


Andrew Petersen 

in the centre of the Ottoman town revealed a bouse dated 
the Fatimid period (Onn, 1992: remains of other periods 
were also encountered). Other excavations within the old 
city have revealed the site of the Crusader castle (Razi 
and Braun 1992) and a church (Harif 1984). 


Both the historical and the archaeological evidence 
indicate a considerable degree of continuity between the 
Byzantine period and the early Islamic period up unul the 
eleventh century. The precise causes of the decline in the 
eleventh century and after are not known although the 
earthquake of 1033 and the growing conflict of the era 
culminating in the Crusader occupation must have played 
their part. Indications that the city recovered after the 
1033 include coins minted there in the 1040's and letters 
found in the Cairo Geniza referring to daily life (Gil 
1992, 284). In any case the area of town enclosed by 
walls during the Crusader period appears to have been 
considerably less than during the Fatimid period (Razi 
and Braun 1992). 

The topography of the early Islamic town has been the 
subject of a recent study by Harrison who suggests that 
the area enclosed by the Ottoman walls represents a 
fortified enclosure or camp (misr) added to the north of 
the Roman/Byzantine city by the Umayyads. This theory 
is based on the assumption that the plan of the Ottoman 
city contains a fossilised plan of the Umayyad camp and 
the fact that archaeology indicated that this area was not 
occupied before the early Islamic period (Harrison 1992). 
The few excavations conducted within the area of the 

Ottoman city have generally confirmed Harrison'* 
though it should be pointed oat that re*wun* ■ rf 
Roman period have also been found <«g. Onn 1992). ITw 
presence of a few Roman remain* an not significant and 
it is more interesting that the southern walls of the 
Ottoman city are built on walls buttt in the early Islamic 
period. It is to be hoped that further excavations in the 
future will be able to test the validity of Harrison's 

Further support for Harrison's theory is the fact that no 
mosques have been found within the area of the main 
city 13 even though a church and synagogues have been 
located (this may be simply a result of chance as al- 
Muqadassi describes a mosque in the market place in the 
centre of the town). The only area where mosques are 
known is within the Ottoman city. One (Jami al-Bahar) 
appears to be located on the ruins of the Crusader castle 
though the other mosque built by Dhahir al-'Umar in the 
eighteenth century is likely to occupy the site of an earlier 
mosque. Unfortunately it is unlikely that this can be 
confirmed by excavations. 

14 The Crusader church excavated by Harif was later converted into a 




Climate and Landscape 

The coast of Palestine may be divided into two parts, a 
northern section reaching from the Carmel hills (Haifa) 
north into Lebanon and a southern section extending 
south in a gentle curve from Carmel to the Sinai. The 
northern section is characterised by a narrow coastal plain 
bordering on a rocky mountainous terrain to the east 
whilst the southern section comprises a broad coastal 
plain which becomes wider and contains an increasing 
proportion of sand towards the south. Both sections 
contain calcerous sandstone (Kurkar) ridges and deposits 
of reddish sandy loam (hamra). The kurkar ridges are 
generally aligned N-S (i.e. parallel to the coast) and are of 
increasing age further east. The ridges become more 
pronounced towards the north as they become hoth higher 
and more closely spaced. In several places the ridges are 
cut by rivers which flood the poorly drained areas 
between the ridges forming narrow swamps (Hb. 
marzeva) (Goldberg 1998, 49-50). 

The coastal area has a fairly uniform Mediterranean 
climate with an average annual rainfall of 500mm. There 
is, however some variation with the average increasing 
further north to over 600mm and decreasing to the south 
to less than 300mm per year. Two main forms of 
vegetation are found, various types of grass and shrub on 
the sand dunes of the south (predominantly Artemesia 
monsperma grasses and retama raetam shrubs) and to the 
north a largely man made (Synanthropic) vegetation on 
(be hamra soils containing remnants of earlier woodlands 
(Danin 1998). The hamra soils are generally less fertile 
than those of the terra rosa soils in the foothills of the 
mountains to the east. 

Harbours and anchorages 

The coast of Palestine has few natural harbours with the 
exception of Acre and Haifa. The majority of ports had 
no good natural harbours and boats would have landed on 
the beach. In a number of cases ports were established in 
the lee of a rock outcrop as at 'Athlit, Arsuf, Jaffa, 
Tantura/Dor. In some cases the conditions were 
particularly unsuitable thus there are frequent complaints 
by medieval European pilgrims arriving at Jaffa. The 
exception to this was the port of Caesarea which was 
established as a city around an artificially constructed 

Early Islamic Period 

The main coastal cities of Palestine (Jund Filastin) in the 
early Islamic comprised Caesarea, Arsuf, Jaffa, Ascalon 
and Gaza. To these may be added Isdud (Ashdod), Yibna 
(Yavne), Tantura (Dor). Tyre, Acre and Haifa belonged 

to the more northerly district of al-Urdunn though in 
Byzantine times they had been part of the province of 
Phonecia. The catalogue refers only to the cities in 
Filastin (excluding Gaza) though Acre and Haifa will also 
be considered in this discussion. 

Historical information about the coastal cities of Palestine 
in the early Islamic period is patchy though it does 
provide some evidence that they were part of a wider 
system of coastal defence (for a review of the historical 
evidence see El' ad 1982). In the Umayyad period it 
appears that the coastal cities of the whole of Syria- 
Palestine may have been under a unified command, thus 
in 638 Abdallah b al-Qays was appointed as 'Governor 
over the Sea' (El'ad 1982, 147; al-Tabari ed. Guidi, 
2824). However it is not clear whether this designation 
referred simply to naval actions or also the cities on the 
coast. In any case the coastal cities certainly appeared to 
have had a special status in the early Islamic period and 
were counted as border cities (ribatai) because of the 
possibility of Byzantine raids. During the revolt of Ibn al- 
Zubayr in the late seventh century Caesarea, and perhaps 
some of the other coastal cities, were again under 
Byzantine control (El'ad 1982, 151,; Tabari ed. Guidi 
821). The importance of the coastal cities was confirmed 
under the Abbasid caliphs when al-Mansur raised the 
allowances of the people living in the coastal region (ahl 
al-Sahil) presumably as an incentive to keep the area 
occupied (al-Razi cited in El'ad 1982, 151-2). The 
Abbasids also appear to have continued the practice of 
having a governor of all the coastal cities of Syria- 
Palestine thus, in 806 Harun al-Rashid appointed 
Humayd ibn al-Ma'yuf over all the coastal cities (El'ad 
1982, 151; Tabari ed. Guidi 709). In the tenth century the 
Muslims appear to have reversed the situation and began 
to make attacks on the Byzantines. To this end Ahmad 
ibn Tulun embarked on an ambitious project to build a 
new port at Acre and the coastal ports of Palestine 
supplied ships for naval raids on Byzantium (Fig. 44). 
The new aggressive naval policy appears to have been 
continued and developed under the Fatimids. The Fatimid 
conquest of Egypt had partially been achieved through 
naval power and the priority which they attached to an 
aggressive coastal policy can be seen from their 
development of the coastal cities of Mahdiya (Lezine 
1965) and Ajdabiyya (Donaldson 1976; Whitehouse 
1972; 1973) in North Africa. When the rest of Palestine 
was subjected to internal conflict involving Bedouin, 
Qarmatian and Turkish forces the coastal cities remained 
relatively secure. Evidence of the Fatimid concern for 
coastal defences is contained in the account of William of 
Tyre who states that the Fatimid caliph al-Mustansir 
ordered each [city] to rebuild its walls and raise strong 
towers round about' (William of Tyre bans. Babcock and 
Krey, I, 17 405). To summarise the historical sources, the 
hold on the coastal cities during the Umayyad period 
appears to have been fairly tenuous, a situation which 


Andrew Petersen 

was stabilised during the Abbasid period and reversed 
under the Fatimids when the coastal cities were the only 
safe places. 

The archaeological evidence provides confirmation of the 
historical information outlined above and also suggests a 
reduction in the number of coastal settlements during the 
period. For example one of the smaller coastal towns, 
Dor/Tantura, appears to have ceased being occupied 
shortly after the Muslim conquest though the evidence is 
not decisive. The archaeology of the other small towns 
such as Mahuz Azdud (Minat al-Qala'a / Ashdod Yam) 
and Minat Rubin/ Mahuz Yubna (Yavne Yam) is in need 
of further investigation though there is some evidence 
that the port of Yibna was abandoned before the Muslim 
conquest. The extensive remains of the port city at 
Ashdod have not been systematically investigated though 
ihe presence of an early Muslim fort and an early 
bathhouse indicate that the port was functioning. The one 
small city for which there is reasonable archaeological 
evidence is Arsuf, located to the north of Jaffa. It appears 
that the city contracted from a dispersed settlement of 24 
hectares in the Byzantine period to an area of 8 hectares 
enclosed by a wall in the Umayyad period. Despite its 
contraction in size the commercial life of the city 
remained active as indicated by a market street which 
continued in use with modifications from the seventh to 
the eleventh century. Unfortunately the archaeology of 
the neighbouring city of Jaffa is virtually unknown for 
this period because much of the area is covered with later 
development. Historical sources indicate that it was a 
small town which acted as the port for Ramla fulfilling 
the same role that Mahuz Azdud (Ashdod Yam) and 
Minat Rubin / Mahuz Yubna (Yavne Yam) did for 
Ashdod and Yibna. 

The archaeology of Caesarea is much better known due to 
extensive excavations carried out since 1940. There 
appears to have been some continuity of occupation from 
the Byzantine to the Umayyad period though there were 
significant changes. At some point the old city walls were 
abandoned (possibly after the Byzantine conquest of the 
680s) and in the Umayyad period the theatre was 
converted into a fortified citadel (Porat 2000, 39*). At a 
later date a new circuit of walls was built enclosing a 
smaller area around the harbour. Unfortunately the 
precise chronology of both these events is unknown 
though there are some indications that the new walls were 
built in the tenth century. If this date is accepted either 
the city was un-walled for a period or the outer city walls 
continued in use beyond the Umayyad period. In either 
case it is clear that as in Arsuf the defended area of the 
town contracted while the area outside was used as 
irrigated gardens. The other notable feature of Caesarea' s 
archaeology in the Islamic period is the construction of a 
new quarter in the mid-eighth century (i.e. beginning of 
the Abbasid period). The new quarter was built at a time 
when the inner harbour was deepened perhaps suggesting 
a new military initiative on behalf of the Abbasid 

Historical accounts indicate that Ascalon was the most 
important of the coastal cities. Unfortunately 
archaeologists working on the site have been primarily 
concerned with earlier periods and very little is known of 
the Islamic period. The strong city fortifications pre-date 
the Islamic period and may account for the fact that this 
was the last city in Palestine to be captured by the 
Muslims. Some forty years later the city was recaptured 
by the Byzantines who destroyed the walls obviously 
aware of their strategic value. Archaeological evidence 
for the construction of the walls is patchy and, despite a 
number of attempts, no systematic survey of the medieval 
fortifications has ever been carried out. There is some 
evidence of a rebuilding of the walls in the Fatiraid 
period in the form of two inscriptions, one located above 
the north gates and the other on the talus of the same 
tower (Sharon 1995). The interior of the city is also 
largely unknown for this period though the discovery of 
Fatimid gold jewellery and luxurious courtyard houses 
provides some support for accounts of prosperity under 
the Fatimids. 

Although extremely limited the archaeology of the 
coastal cities supports the historical evidence. A survey of 
rural settlement in one section of the coast (the central 
Sharon) provides a slightly different perspective of the 
area during the early Islamic period. Under Byzantine 
rule the western part of the coastal plain was densely 
populated with more than 30 settlements despite the fact 
that it was covered in less fertile hamra soils which 
together with the constant need for drainage meant that 
for most periods it was a marginal area. By the time of 
the Crusades (i.e. twelfth century) the number of 
settlements had been reduced to 12 for the same area 
(Pringle 1986, 5-27). If this pattern is replicated over the 
whole coastal plain it would indicate a reduction in rural 
settlement by over 50%. The survey results complement 
the information from the towns and may explain why 
areas of Caesarea were converted to agricultural 
allotments. The author of the survey suggests three 
reasons for the contraction of settlement 1) loss of wider 
Mediterranean markets for produce, 2) warfare and 3) a 
decline in the road system (Pringle 1986, 7-8). In the light 
of the historical information and the archaeology of the 
towns I would suggests that the second reason- the 
warfare between the Byzantines and the Muslims was the 
most significant factor. Warfare would have reduced the 
number of rural coastal settlements both directly through 
raiding and secondarily by reducing the urban population 
of the area reducing the need for food produced in the 
area. For example the enclosed area of Caesarea was 
reduced by 86% between the Byzantine and Fatimid 
periods indicating a severe population decline even if it is 
assumed that the population density in the town 

Crusader Period 

The Crusaders were dependant on Europe for much of 
their trade as well as their manpower and consequently 
placed a great emphasis on the coastal towns as their link 


The Towns of Palestine Under Muslim Rule 

with the west (Fig. 45). The most visible reminder of this 

is the development of Acre as capital of the Kingdom 

between AD 1191 and 1291 when the walled area was 

expanded from 51.5 Declares to 85.5 hectares. Equally 

significant is the fact that the Crusaders intensified the 

urbanisation of the coast creating at least two new towns, 

Darum and 'Athlit, and reviving older towns such as 

Tantura which had fallen out of use in the early Islamic 

period. When faced with massive fortifications such as 

the castle of 'Athlit it is tempting to see the coastal towns 

as primarily military in character however they were 

evidently of great commercial importance to both 

Muslims and Christians as can be seen from Ibn Jubayr's 

account of his caravan journey from Damascus to Acre in 

1185 (Ibn Jubayr trans.Gaudfrey-Demombynes 352-2). It 

is probable that there was also a rise in rural settlement on 

the coast during this period in response to the growth of 

the towns although this has not been documented 


Mamluk Period 

One of the defining features of Mamluk policy was the 
destruction of the coastal cities of Palestine and Syria to 
prevent their recapture by the Crusaders (Fig. 46). 
Commenting on this policy Ayalon wrote '... throughout 
the history of Islam. Nowhere else in the Muslim world, 
from the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean, was there 
destruction to equal in thoroughness, scale and gravity of 
its lasting consequences, the destruction of this coast by 
the Mamluks' (1965, 12). According to this policy the 
coastal cities were destroyed one by one thus the city of 
Ascalon was destroyed and has remained deserted to the 
present day. Similarly Jaffa was destroyed with the 
Mamluk Sultan taking a personal part in the destruction. 
A large quantity of architectural material was removed 
from Acre to Cairo including a church doorway which 
was used for the Jami' al-Nasir (Behrens Abou-Seif 1989, 
18). In place of the destroyed cities a series of fortified 
towers were built to keep watch over the coast, a number 
of which still survive at Tripoli (see Jidejian 1980, 94- 
95). In order to inhibit the return of settled life to the area 
the Mamluks settled the coastal areas with nomadic 
Turkomans who would also act as a first line of defence 
against further Crusader attacks (Ayalon 1951, 89; 1965. 

The efficacy of this policy has been taken for granted by 
historians who see the coast of Palestine as devoid of 
settled life throughout the Mamluk period. There are 
however a few exceptions to this policy the most notable 
of these is the city of Gaza which, not only survived but, 
prospered 1 . There are other examples of continued urban 
life on the coast north of Palestine, thus the city of Tripoli 
was rebuilt two miles inland from the sea and continued 
to function as one of the main urban centres of Syria 
(Salam-Liebich 1983). Further south. Beirut was rebuilt 

after its initial conquest and destruction by the Mamluks 
in 1291. Recent historical research has shown that the 
city not only continued to exist but was also, at least 
partially, refortified during this period (Fuess 1997-8). 
The preliminary results of the Beirut archaeological 
excavations have confirmed the town's continued 
existence into the Mamluk period with a significant 
proportion of the medieval town plan recorded. (El-Masn 
1997-8). Ceramics from the excavations also indicate 
increased activity in the Mamluk period compared with 
the preceding Crusader period 2 . Beirut's survival is 
attributed primarily to its role as the port for Damascus 
and the fact that it was separated from the capital by high 
mountains must have played some part in the decision to 
allow its continued existence. 

The relationship between Beirut and Damascus is echoed 

in the relationship between Jaffa and Jerusalem and it is 

tempting to see similar signs of continuity here- There is 

for example some historical evidence indicating that, at 

least initially, Jaffa continued to function as a port and 

may even have begun to recover in the fourteenth century 

(Abu al-Fida ed. Reinaud de Slane, 239). The revival of 

the port evidently angered the Mamluk government who 

in 1336 once more demolished the city and filled in the 

harbour (Tolkowsky 1924, 133). Unfortunately the 

archaeology of medieval Jaffa has been largely neglected 

so that it is not possible to reach positive conclusions 

about its condition in this period though the construcuon 

of Qubbat Shaykh Murad in 736 AH (1335AD) indicates 

that there was some activity in the area before 1336 

(Clermont-Ganneau 1886-9, II, 152-154). Similarly 

Kana'an has identified pieces of masonry built into the 

exterior of the Great Mosque which appear to be derived 

from an earlier Mamluk structure in the vicinity (Kana'an 

2001, 194 and 203 n.7). 

Bearing in mind these few exceptions it appears that most 
of the towns and cities immediately on the coast were 
destroyed. Confirmation of the desertion of the coastal 
area is again provided by Pringle's survey of the central 
Sharon plain which shows progressive abandonment of 
the areas west of the Via Maris (1986, 22-27 and Tables 1 
and 2). However a few kilometres inland some 
settlements appear to have flourished during this period 
due to another Mamluk policy, the revival of the Via 
Maris. Gaza was one obvious beneficiary of this policy 
though other towns such as Yibna, Isdud and Qaqun also 
flourished. Again we are hampered by the lack of 
published archaeological research though the standing 
remains at Yibna including a Friday Mosque, a 
magnificent shrine tomb and a bridge indicate some form 

■ The survival or Gaza may be attributed lo iwo factors, (i) its proximity 

to Egypt and the Via Mans and tti) me faci Uiai it ■» located three 
kilometres form the coast and is not actually a port city. 

> See for example Van der Steen 1997-8, pp. 122-3 -Sgraffiato is a kind 
of decoration usually found in Ayyubid and Crusader contexts, a a 
rather rare in Mamluk contexts. Sgraffiato cut with a broad instrument, 
in particular, is considered pre-Mamluk. A few sherds of this type were 
found, Polychrome glaring, so called sptahware. is usually found in 
pre-Mamluk contexts, in the Ayyubid and crusader periods. ■ *• 
present in small quantities in all the Islamic phases. On the other hand, 
undergo™! paimwt friiware was found in relatively large quannue*. 
especially so-called Syrian blue and white painted ware. 


Andrew Petersen 

of urban development Similarly at Isdud/ Ashdod the 
remains of a large khan, two medieval shrines and a 
bridge indicate something more than a village. 
Unfortunately excavations at the site primarily concerned 
with earlier periods found that the later levels of the site 
were too disturbed by modern destruction to give any 
assessment of occupation in the medieval period (Dothan 
andFreedman 1967, 13). 

In addition to these two settlements which evidently 
existed before Mamluk times another settlement, Majdal, 
appears to be a creation of the Mamluk period (i.e there is 
no evidence of an earlier settlement on the site). Standing 
remains include a large Friday Mosque built on the orders 
of Sayf al-Din Salar in 1300, a smaller mosque and a 
market place. The importance of the site can be judged by 
the fact that the population of Majdal was nearly twice 
that of Ramla in the early sixteenth century (Cohen and 
Lewis 1978, 19 see also Appendix I, Nos 9 and 10). The 
location of the settlement near the ruins of Ascalon 
suggest that it was built or developed to carry-out some 
of the functions formerly exercised by that city. 

One notable feature of the surviving settlements on or 
near the coast is that they are all in the southern part of 
the country. At a latitude roughly equivalent with Jaffa 
the Via Maris shifted eastwards following a route along 
the foothills of the Judean Mountains via Jaljuliyya (this 
village also shows signs of proto urban development with 
its large khan and two mosques Petersen 1997). The 
northern part of the coastal plain therefore appears to 
have been genuinely free of towns and villages with the 
possible exception of Qaqun. Although Qaqun seems to 
have fulfilled many of the functions of a town with its 
khan and Friday Mosque it appears to have been 
principally a military base for controlling the coastal 
plain and did not develop into a town in the same way as 
Safed. It is for example noticeable that Qaqun was not 
surrounded by villages as one might expect of a more 
prosperous town but instead was located in the midst of 
an area inhabited by nomads 3 . 

The Ottoman Period 

With the defeat of the Mamluks and the rise of a new 
empire which placed more reliance on naval power one 
might expect to see the re-development of the coastal 
towns (cf Ayalon 1965). However for the first century of 
Ottoman rule there is little evidence of activity in the 
coastal region probably because the emphasis of Ottoman 
transport and communication was based on the Damascus 
Hajj route 4 . Much of the coast was still dominated by 
nomadic Turkoman tribes and although there were 
attempts to restore settled life to this area it remained 
devoid of villages throughout the sixteenth century'. 

This area (i.e. the coast between Jaffa and Haifa) was still 
underdeveloped at the sum of the twentieth century. 
* For the importance of the Hajj route in the early Ottoman period see 
Bakhil 1982. 106-115. 

A firman dated AD 1589 encouraged the development of settled 

populations in ihc tbgiuii ufQsujun (HeyQ 19(50, 33-3). 

There is however some evidence of artm renewal of the 
coastal towns in Lebanon (see Appendix 1, Tables 1 and 
2). However much of this seems to have been a result of 
local initiative rather than direct Ottoman policy thus the 
renovation of Sidon appears to have been mostly carried 
out under the direction of the Emir Fakhr al-Din U al- 
Ma'ani (AD 1572-1635) rather than as a result of direct 
Ottoman patronage (Badawi 1997-8 525-62). However in 
Palestine Gaza remained the only Palestinian coastal 
town with a significant population (roughly equivalent to 
that of Jerusalem during the same period). The only other 
coastal town where significant Ottoman interest can be 
demonstrated is Acre where a new mosque built by Sinan 
Pasha formed the centre of a complex which included a 
khan and madrassa (Bakhit 1982, 118)* Nevertheless the 
population of the port remained fairly low (in 1597 
approximately 405) and was equivalent to that of a large 
village. However the revenue of the town was very high 
(20,500 akfes) in proportion to the population giving an 
average revenue of 50.6 akges per person (compare this 
with the revenues listed in Appendix 1, Tables 10 and 


The ruins of Arsuf are located on the coast roughly mid- 
way between Caesarea and Jaffa (Palestine Grid 131 
178). The principal surviving remains are the Crusader 
castle which is located in the north-west of the town site 
(see Fig. 50 and Plates 28-30). Not much is known of the 
history of the town before the Crusader period. In Roman 
times the town housed the sanctuary of Apollon-Reshef 
and was the only port of the southern Sharon region (Roll 
and Ayalon 1987, 61). During the Byzantine period the 
town was known as "City of the Saviour' (GRP 30) and 
was an Episcopal see. In 614 the town surrendered to the 
Sassanians (Schick 1995, 250). There is no account of the 
Muslim conquest of the town though it is mentioned by 
Muqaddasi in the tenth century who said that it was 
smaller than Jaffa but nevertheless well fortified and 
populous. Muqaddasi also mentions the Friday mosque 
and describes the Friday mosque which has a minbar 
originally made for the mosque in Ramla but was 
regarded as too small and later moved to Arsuf (ed de 
Goeje, 177). There is little indication of the presence of 
Christians in the town though it is clear that Samaritans 
were there until the ninth century at least when their 
synagogue was burnt as part of a widespread series of 
rebellions (Gil 1992, 410, 941). In 1101 the city was 
captured by the Crusaders and remained under Christian 
control (with the exception of four years between 1187 
and 1191) until 1265 when it was systematically 
destroyed by the Mamluk sultan Baybars (Pringle 1993, 1, 
59; Gil 1992, 944). 

Unfortunately the Sinan Pasha mosque was rebuilt in the eighteenth 
century and the other buildings have not been identified so that it is 
difficult to from an impression of the development of Acre durine this 


The Towns of Palestine Under Muslim Rule 


ibie 2U. Arsuf /A 

rauonla anmnw 



Early Islamic 



Early Ottoman 


A (24 ha.) 



A (8 ha.) 





build inqs 

A (church) 

H (mosque) 


Secular pubic 








A= Archaeological Evidence, H= Historical Evidence 


The archaeological investigation of the site has mostly 
been carried out during the last twenty years first by the 
Israel Antiquities Authority and later by the University of 
Tel Aviv (Dauphin 1998,799; Ayalon and Roll 1987). 
The Byzantine town was a ( dispersed unfortified 
settlement covering an area of up to 70 acres. During the 
Umayyad period the size of the settlement was reduced 
by a Ihird from 15 to 5 hectares and defended by a newly 
constructed wall (Fig. 50, Plate 29). To the south of the 
town there is a Muslim shrine which was endowed by the 
Mamluk Sultan Baybars after his conquest of Arsuf in 
1265 (Mujir al-Din trans Sauvaire 212-3; for description 
of shrine see Mayer and Pinkerfeld 1950, 36-9 and 
Petersen 2001, 146-8). 


The walls enclosing Arsuf are built of kurkar stone with 
regular square buttresses and at least four gates. Recent 
excavations have shown thai the walls were built either 
on sand dunes or on well packed hamra with crushed 
kurkar rubble. The walls were originally constructed 
during the Umayyad period and remained in use until the 
arrival of the crusaders who renovated them for their own 
use (Roll 1990; Roll 2000). 

Market Street 

The most interesting results have come from the 
j iavestigation of a shopping street (suq) running North- 
jWeat to South-East. The excavations show that the suq 
[continued in use for a period of three hundred and fifty 
[years from the mid-seventh to late eleventh century, 
main phases of construction were identified in the 
(named V to VII). The layout of the street and 
was established in the earliest phase attributed to 
Umayyad period. At the end of the second phase 
V), attributed to the early ninth century, there 
considerable evidence of destruction which the 
avators linked to the disturbances of that period which 
saw the burning of the Samaritan synagogue in the 
(see above). In the latest phase (Stratum V) the 
was renovated with a new paving and curb-stones 

and the shops were renovated. Because this was the latest 
phase and consequently well preserved more details of 
construction were observed. Thus it is evident that the 
shops were built of mud brick on a stone (kurkar) base 
and covered with plaster. 


The most visible remains are those of the Crusader castle 
located at the north west corner of the site. The remains 
comprise an irregular concentric plan with projecting 
towers. Immediately in front of the castle are the ruins of 
a harbour (Fig. 50, Plate 28). 


Although only a small proportion of the site has been 
excavated the results clearly indicate that the town was 
re-built as a planned settlement in Umayyad times. The 
town retained this plan until the Crusader conquest in the 
twelfth century. Like the other coastal cities there is no 
evidence of rebuilding in either the Mamluk or early 
Ottoman periods. 



The remains of Ascalon are located on the coast between 
Ashdod and Gaza (Palestine Grid 1068 1 168). Although 
the area around the ancient walled city has recently been 
developed the ruins have been protected since the period 
of the British Mandate. 

Ascalon is an ancient city which is first mentioned in 
Egyptian texts of the twentieth century BC. The city 
remained one of the major urban centres of Palestine until 
its final destruction by Sultan Baybars in 1270 AD. 
During Roman times Ascalon was a walled city with a 
harbour, palace, baths and a Herodian portico. There were 
three temples dedicated to Apollo, Atargatis and Isis 
(GPR 32; TIR 68-70). In the Byzantine period there were 
at least three churches and one or more synagogues 
(Schick 1995, 251). 

Andrew Petersen 

Ascalon was die last city in Palestine to be conquered by 
the Muslim Arabs. After a short siege the city 
surrendered to Mu'awiya in 640 AD though it had 
previously been occupied by 'Amr ibn al-'As for the 
conquest of Egypt (cf Baladhuri ed De Goeje 142 and 
Tabari ed.Guidi I, 2516). It was designated as a border 
settlement and garrisoned with frontier troops. The 
political instability of the caliphate in the 680' s meant 
that the Byzantines were able to recapture the city, 
although instead of occupying it they exiled the 
inhabitants and destroyed the fortifications. A decade 
later under 'Abd al-Malik ibn Marwan the Muslims were 
able to re-establish control over the coast. As part of this 
process both Ascalon and Caesarea were re-fortified and 
a new mosque was built in Ascalon (Baladhuri cited in Le 
Strange 1890, 400). By AD 712 Ascalon had begun 
minting its own copper coins indicating that it was 
considered safe from attack. During this period a number 
of prominent Muslims lived in the city (Gil 1992, 172-4). 
Under the Abbasids the city continued to flourish as is 
indicated by an inscription recording the re-building of 
the mosque with minaret by the caliph al-Mahdi in AD 
772 (RCEA. 1, No. 42). In AD 969 Palestine and much of 
Syria was conquered by the Fatimid general Jawhar and 
Ascalon became a strategic base linking the two areas. 

At the end of the tenth century Muqaddasi visited 
Ascalon and gave the following description: 

'Ascalon on the sea is a splendid city and well defended. 
Fruit is here in plenty, especially that of the sycamore. 
The great mosque, in the market of the cotton merchants. 
is paved throughout with marble. The city is beautiful, 
superior, and well fortified. They make the finest silk, 
and other resources abound, and life there is pleasant. 
Also its markets are good and well defended. Only its 
harbour is unsafe, its waters brackish, and the sand-fly are 
a nuisance' (Le Strange 1890, 401 ). 

It is notable that Muqaddasi makes several (three) 
references to the strength of the city. The security of the 
city was evidently a positive factor thus a letter from the 
Cairo Geniza states the desire of a man to move to 
Ascalon ' because it is better fortified and maintained 
than Hasor ICaesarea]' (Gil 1992, 330). 

During the eleventh century the city suffered from a 
number of natural and man made disasters. In 1033 
Ascalon, along with many of the other cities in Palestine 
suffered from an earthquake which caused the minora 
above the mosque to collapse. In the 1070s most of 
Palestine was captured by the Seljuk Turks though the 
Fatimids were able to retain control of Ascalon because 
of its fortifications and proximity to Egypt . In 1099 the 
arrival of the Crusaders was a new threat though Ascalon 
was able to resist capture for over half a century until 

The Crusaders were only able to seize the city after a 
sustained campaign involving the construction of three 
fortresses. The Crusaders were only able to hold the city 

until 1187 when it was n ' ' ' J %H| ¥ nl1 " ta l192 
the site was briefly captured t»*l£0p£ by Richard I 
of England though later "m ' 4%:|p»* years the 
fortifications were dismantled after * * *wty between 
Salah al-Din and Richard. In 1240 Richard of Cornwall 
re-occupied the site and established a carte to the north- 
west corner. In 1247 the castfe was captured by the 
Ayyubid Fakh al-Din ibn al-Shaykh. The final destruction 
of the fortifications took place in 1270 as part of Baybars 
policy of destroying the coastal cities. The city never 
recovered although the site was settied by farmers. 

The population of Ascalon during the early Islamic 
period (i.e. up to the Crusader conquest) appears to have 
been mixed comprising Christians, Jews and Muslims 
(Gil 1992, 172-6, 276). It is likely that the proportion of 
Muslims increased in the latter centuries and it is known 
that by the time of the Crusader conquest there were at 
least three mosques in the city. Conversion to Islam and 
the occasional persecution (Gil 1992, 708 and 711) may 
have reduced the proportion of Christians in the city 
though Jews appear to have remained in the city until the 
Crusader conquest (Gil 1992, 857). 


Despite the considerable size of the site and large 
quantity of material from the later periods the 
archaeology of Islamic period Ascalon is not well 
understood. This is partly because large-scale excavations 
at the site have mostiy been concerned with remains of 
the Biblical period (see for example Stager 1991). The 
other problem is identifying particular buildings or 
periods of construction known from historical sources 
(see Fig. 47). 

The problem of identification is particularly acute when 
the surviving 1.2 kilometres of city fortifications are 
considered. The main question is the extent to which 
Fatimid period fortifications were rebuilt by the 
Crusaders (and Richard of Cornwall). Some have argued 
that Richard I of England refortified the entire circuit of 
the walls (Pringle 1984) other that the walls were entirely 
rebuilt by Richard of Cornwall (Sharon 1995, 73) and 
others that the surviving walls are of Fatimid construction 
(Stager 1991, 62 n. 36). In any case it is clear from 
William of Tyre's description and an inscription recendy 
unearthed (Sharon 1995) that the Fatimid fortifications 
were monumental and probably included an outer ring of 
defences that have since disappeared. 

A similar situation is encountered when one considers the 
mosques and other pre-Crusader religious buildings in the 
town. Although there are several descriptions of mosques 
in the town no remains have been located with the 
possible exception of a Byzantine Orthodox church 
uncovered in 1985 abutting the eastern section of the 
town wall. The church continued in use through most of 
the Islamic period until the mid-tenth century when it was 
converted into a mosque (unfortunately the excavator 
does not say what archaeological evidence there is for the 


The Towns of Palestine Under Muslim Rule 

Table 21. Aacaloii Summery 


Early Islamic 



Early Ottoman 



A (60 ha.) 

A (60 ha.) 

A (6o ha.) 






A (churches) 

H (mosques) 

A (church) 

Secular public 














A= Archaeological Evidence, H = Historical Evidence 

conversion). After the Crusader conquest the church was 
re-converted for use as a church 7 . 

Archaeological evidence for other aspects of life in the 
city during the Islamic period has generally either not 
been published or not has not been found. There are a few 
exceptions, thus ornate gold jewellery (Stager 1991, 54) 
and carved bone work (Wapnish 1991) may be evidence 
of the many industries which we know were carried out 
during the Islamic period ( see for example Oil 1992, 
342, 345 and 350). There are brief references to courtyard 
houses along the side of a street each with a small pool in 
the centre of the courtyard (Stager 1991, 54; Stager and 
Esse 1987). There is also evidence of a large apsed 
structure built in the sixth century which continued in use 
until the twelfth century. The function of the apsed 
building is not known though it position above an earlier 
Byzantine bathhouse suggest that it may also have 
functioned as a bathhouse (Stager 1991, 49; Stager and 
Esse 1987, 6). 


The available historical evidence clearly indicates that 
Ascalon was one of the main cities of Palestine. 
Unfortunately the published archaeological evidence does 
not add much to the historical accounts beyond 
confirming its status. 

Ashdod, Isdud 

The site of the Biblical Ashdod represented by Tell 
Ashdod/rell Isdud is located approximately four 
kilometres from the coast between Ascalon and Jaffa 
(Palestine Grid 118 129). Until 1948 the site was 
occupied by the Arab village of Isdud. 


There was a settlement on the site of Isdud from at least 
the seventeenth century BC. The town was desttoyed in 
the second century BC but was rebuilt by the Romans as 

7 According to Stager this chureh should probably be identified with the 
G«ert Mosque/ Church of St Mary the Green though he does not give 
convincing reasons (62. n.38). 

Azotus Hippenos less than one hundred years later. In the 
fourth century AD the city became and Episcopal see 
(TIR, 72). During the Byzantine period the port became 
more important than the city itself (see Minat al-Qal'a). 
In the early seventh century the site was captured by the 
Muslim Arabs though it is not specifically mentioned. In 
the ninth century the town was mentioned as a stop 
between Gaza and Ramla (Ibn Khurdadhbih, 80) and in 
the tenth century Muqaddasi (ed. de Goeje 192) describes 
it as a slop midway between Ramla and Jaffa. After the 
destruction of coastal towns by Baybars in the thirteenth 
century the centre of activity shifted back from the port to 
the main site. In 1477 the Mamiuk Sultan Qaytbay passed 
through the village on his way from Cairo to Damascus 
(ibn al-Ji*an cited in Hartmann 1910, 6%). According to 
the 1596 tax registers the settlement was classed as a 
village with a population of 75 households 
(approximately 375 people) (Hiitteroth and Abdulfattah 
1977, 143). 


The tell which forms the centre of the site rises 
approximately 22 metres above the level of the 
surrounding plain. The main archaeological investigation 
of the site was carried out by Dothan during the 1960s 
and was mainly concerned with the pre-Roman periods. 
In general Dothan suggested that Ashdod was in decline 
before the Muslim conquests and that by the time of the 
early Islamic period it was little more than a village 
(Dothan and Freedman 1967, 13, 27-35). However more 
recent excavations have indicated that the post Roman 
settlement was more substantial than previously indicated 
by Dothan (Baumgarten 1999). Thus a synagogue 
appears to have been built during the Byzantine period 
and there are signs of significant occupation as late as the 
tenth century AD (see for example the hoard of tenth 
century Muslim dinars discovered on the site Bacharach 
1980). Unfortunately there is little indication of the layout 
or size of the settlement in early Islamic times because of 
the considerable disturbance of the later layers of the site 
(for example Dothan writes *the dearth of remains that 
resulted from recent destruction was particularly apparent 
in the highest levels of the tell' (Dothan and Freedman 
1967, 32)). 

Andrew Petersen 

Table 22. Ashdod/ ladud Summary 


Early Islamic 



Early Ottoman 





A (mosque) 

Secular public 



A (khan) 

A (Khan) 


A= Archaeological Evidence, H= Historical Evidence 

Medieval occupation at the site is represented by a large 
khan, a mosque, a smaller domed shrine. The khan that 
has disappeared since the late nineteenth century was 
built during the Mamluk period though the exact date of 
construction is not known (Edhem 1916, 26-7). The 
mosque was built in 1269 AD and subsequently expanded 
to accommodate the tomb of Ibrahim Matabouli who died 
there in 1472 (Dothan 1964). The small domed shrine is 
undated though its architecture suggests that it was also a 
medieval construction. In the early Ottoman period the 
khan continued to function (Hiitteroth and Abdulfattah 
1977, 94 Fig.9) although the village did not have a 
market which seems to have taken place in the 
neighbouring settlement of Majdal (Hiitteroth and 
Abdulfattah 1977, 87 Fig. 8). 


Unfortunately the available archaeological information 
for the early Islamic period is limited though it does 
suggest that the settlement was in decline before the 
Muslim conquest. It appears that the port, Minat al-Qal'a 
was the main urban settlement in the Byzantine and early 
Islamic times. Given the destruction of the coastal 
settlements following the Mamluk conquest one might 
expect Isdud to revive as an urban settlement away from 
the coast but on the Via Maris (cf Majdal). However 
although a few medieval buildings survived until recently 
they do not, on their own, suggest that Isdud was 
anything more than a village during the Mamluk period. 

Caesarea / Qaysariyya 


Caesarea is located in an area of sand dunes on the 
Mediterranean coast, roughly mid-way between Jaffa and 
Haifa (Palestine Grid 1401 2120). Although a trading 
port had existed at the site from Phoenician times, the city 
of Caesarea was founded by Herod the Great between 22 
and 10 BC (cf. Raban 1998, 59). The newly established 
city became capital of Syria Palaestina and Palaestina I 
and later a metropolitan Episcopal see (TIR 94-6). The 
city was taken by the Sassanian Persians in 614 AD and 
appears to have continued functioning as normal during 
the occupation (cf Schick 1995, 277). Two decades later 

the city suffered from the first Muslim attacks and in 634 
AD Sergius the military governor of Palestine led an 
attack on the Muslims with a company of 300 men and 
was defeated and killed (Gil 1992, 51, 54). Two years 
later in 636 Caesarea and Jerusalem were the only cities 
in Palestine to have withstood the Muslim conquest (Gil 
1992, 65). The city was finally captured by the Arabs in 
19 AH (640 AD) led by Mu'awiyya (Sharon El, 4, 841-2; 
Orni EJ, 5-6-13). According to al-Baladhuri (ed. de Goeje 
142) the Muslims captured 4000 prisoners whilst 
Christian sources (John of Nikiu and Michael the Syrian) 
state that the city was devastated (Schick 1995, 278) . 

Under the Byzantines Palaestina I had been under the 
administrative control of Caesarea. The Muslim Arabs 
did not wish to continue this situation as they regarded 
Caeasarea as too vulnerable to Byzantine sea-borne 
attacks (Gil 1992, 116). However in the first years of 
Muslim rule the Byzantine administrators were useful to 
the conquerors who freed captive Christians and Jews 
from Caesarea to run the administration (Gil 1992. 270). 
Although Caeasarea was not regarded as a suitable capital 
it was still a major port and administrative centre minting 
its own coins. To this end the city was fortified and was 
one of a number of coastal cities which maintained a 
Muslim fleet. In 662/3 Mu'awiyya settled Persian army 
units from Antiuch, Ba'albak and Hims in Caeasarea and 
the other coastal cities (Gil 1992, 1 17). According to al- 
Baladhuri the city was briefly re-captured by the 
Byzantines between 685 and 695 AD and the mosque was 
destroyed (ed. de Goeje 143). In general, however the 
precautions against coastal attacks were effective and it 
was only when the political system began to fragment in 
the tenth century that the Byzantines were able to make 
successful raids such as that in 972 AD (Ibn al-Qalanasi 
ed. Amedroz, 12: Gil 1992, 550). 

Life within the city during the first centuries of Muslim 
rule appears to have been relatively peaceful with 
Muslims, Jews and Christians co-existing. There are, for 
example letters from the Geniza documents testifying to 
an active Jewish life centred around the synagogue as late 
as 1094 AD (Gill 1992,747, 913). On the other hand there 

* Tabari states that over 80,000 Byzantines were kilted in the capture of 

Cacsaics (EU-Ouidi 2397, trona rricdmon 1092, 183 A), 

were occasional acts of intolerance such as the 
destruction of churches in 923 AD (Gill 1992, 710). 

A picture of life in the city in the mid-tenth century is 
provided by the Palestinian geographer al-Muqaddasi 
who described it as follows; 

There is no city more beautiful, nor any better filled with 
good things... its lands are excellent, and its fruits 
delicious, the town is also famous for its buffalo milk and 
its bread. The city is protected by a wall. Outside of 
which is a populous area and a fortress. The water for the 
occupants is gathered from cisterns. Its Great Mosque is 
beautiful' (Muqaddasi ed. de Goeje, 174) 

In 1047 the city was visited by the Persian traveller, 
Nasir-i-Khusraw, who gives a similar description 
emphasising the strength of the fortifications and the iron 
gates (ed. Scheffer, 18, 61). Apparently the strength of 
the fortifications was an important consideration in 
deciding whether to settle in the city (Gill 1992, 330) . 

In May 1101 the city was captured by the Crusaders led 
by King Baldwin I. The crusaders held the city until 1 187 
when it was captured by Salah al-Din. Three years later in 
1 187 the city defences were destroyed by Salah al-Din in 
anticipation of the arrival of the Third Crusade. The Fra- 
nks duly re-took control of the city in 1 191 although no 
attempt was made to rebuild the fortifications until 1217. 
The re-fortification was finally completed by Louis IX of 
France in 1252. Thirteen years later in 1265 the city was 
captured by the Mamluk Sultan Baybars who spent two 
weeks demolishing the defences (Pringle 1993-, I, 166 
and Ibn al-Furat ed Lyons and Lyons, I. 86, II, 70-2). The 
site remained uninhabited for the rest of the Mamluk and 
early Ottoman periods until the seventeenth century when 
a small community was established on the site . This 
village was also soon deserted and it was not until the late 
nineteenth century when there was a renewed attempt to 
settle the site with Bosnian Muslims (Plate 31). Neither 
of these later settlements could be classified as a town. 


Because there is no substantial modern settlement on the 
site of ancient Caesarea the remains are open to extensive 
excavation both on land and in the sea. The first serious 
archaeological excavations were carried out in the late 
I940's and early 1950's by Reifenberg who was 
interested in how the town was abandoned (Reifenberg 
1950-1). During the following half century a substantial 
area has been excavated, mostly within the Crusader 

The Towns of Palestine Under Muslim Rule 

The remains comprise a vast semi-circular area (2km N-S 
x 1.25km E-W) enclosed within a wall and fed by two 
aqueducts (Figs.51-2). In the middle of the west side 
there is an artificial harbour which today is dominated by 
the remains of the Crusader castle/stronghold. Opposite 
the harbour, facing the sea, there is a rectangular area 
enclosed within walls, which, in their latest phase, date to 
the reconstruction of King Louis in 1252. A grid plan of 
streets covers a large proportion of the site 
(approximately half) and appears to represent the remains 
of the original Herodian plan as indicated by a 
fragmentary early wall at the northern end of the site. 
Outside the grid plan, but within the later Byzantine 
walls, there are the remains of a theatre, amphitheatre and 

It appears that the outer wall enclosing the city was built 
in the Byzantine period and represents the greatest extent 
of the city (for evidence of Byzantine occupation of this 
area see for example the hoard of fourth to fifth century 
coins , Israel Museum 1997, 17). Apparently the wall was 
first built in the fourth or fifth century though a Greek 
inscription found within the hippodrome refers to a tower 
(presumably of the city wall) built in the sixth century 
(Dauphin 1998, 744; Lifshitz 1961, 123-6). The wall had 
both rectangular and round towers and does not appear to 
have been particularly strong. A recent report on an 
excavation of the north-east part of the wall states that it 
had shallow foundations on unstable dune sands and 
reached a total height of 2.8 metres including a parapet 
(Holum and Raban 1991, 41). It is not clear when the 
wall went out of use although the same report states that 
it was abandoned 'after the Muslim conquest'. 
Unfortunately there is no information about when 'after 
the Muslim conquest' the wall was abandoned though it 
seems likely that this would have not occurred before the 
Fatimid period (tenth century) when a new wall enclosing 
a smaller area was built (see below 'Fortifications'). 

There is little evidence of occupation during the early 
Islamic period of the area outside the Crusader city walls 
although it is possible that the excavators in this area 
failed to recognize early Islamic material because of its 
similarity to Byzantine remains (cf Lenzen 1983). In 
some areas excavators identified features which they 
described as 'Irrigated Gardens' overlying, earlier 
Byzantine remains. The date of the gardens is not known 
though they comprised soil containing ceramic material 
dating from the sixth and seventh centuries AD 
suggesting that they were constructed during the first 
centuries of Islam (Porath 1998, 45; Patrich 1998, 56). In 
any case the use of parts of the area as a graveyard from 
the tenth century onwards may implies that by the tenth 
century occupation was confined to the areas within the 
walls (Patrich 1998, 56). 

' Apparently ihe fortifications of Caesarea were noi considered 
sufficient for certain members of the Jewish community in Caesarea 
thai Joshua ben 'Eli requested permission to move from Caesarea to 
Ascalon 'for it is better fortified and maintained than Hasor (Caesarea] 
(Gil 1992. 330). 

• It is for example notable thai Caesarea does not even appear as a 
viBa$e in the sixteenth century tax registers. 

Andrew Petersen 

Table 23. Caesarea Summary 


Early Islamic 



Early Ottoman 


A (80ha.) 









A (church) 

H (mosque) 

A (church) 

Secular public 







Recent excavations have confirmed that the walls of the 
Crusader period are built on earlier walls of the early 
Islamic period (Porath, Neeman and Badihi 1991, 134). 
At least part of the early Islamic walls were built on an 
earlier Herodian wall which may have formed part of the 
quay of the inner harbour (Porath 1998, 48). In other 
places the early Islamic wall appears to have rested 
directly on earlier structures dating from the seventh to 
ninth centuries giving a date of construction in the 
Fatimid period (969-1 101 AD). 

It has also recently been discovered that the theatre area 
was converted into a fortress during the early Islamic 
period . The fortress walls which incorporated the 
theatre were extended westwards to the sea shore forming 
a fortified enclosure or ribat in the southern part of the 
site. It appears that the fortress was abandoned by the 
eighth century (Porat 2000, 35* Table l.IV and 39*) 


As the harbour at Caesarea was an artificial construction 
in an area of shifting sand dunes it was susceptible to 
considerable silting up. In the Herodian, Roman and 
Byzantine periods there was an inner harbour or basin 
which was periodically dredged to keep it open. By the 
time of the arrival of the Crusaders the inner basin was no 
longer functioning. The exact date of the silting of the 
inner basin is not known though there is evidence that it 
was still in use and deepened during the early Islamic 
period (i.e. late seventh-mid-ninth centuries AD)(Porath 
1998, 40). Unfortunately the exact dating of the filling of 
the inner harbour is not clear though it must have been 
some time before the new Islamic grid plan was laid out 
in the eighth century. 


There is considerable evidence for trade and industry in 
early Islamic Caesarea for example the piazza on top of 

" ll had previously been assumed that the theatre was convened into a 

fortius during D vanillic lulc tia.srU oil Iiallau excavations In Che lyOOS. 

the Herodian podium was used as an area for melting 
bronze and iron whilst the vaults below were used as lime 
kilns (Porath 1998, 47) (for examples of metalwork 
recovered at Caesarea see Israel Museum 1997, 18). In 
the new Islamic quarter the excavators identified an 
installation for processing sugar cane (Rabat! 1998, 65). 
Elsewhere there are large vaults which were probably 
used as warehouses and square compartments or silos 
with mosaic floors used for storage of wine or olive oil 
(Netzer 1982. 15; Raban 1986, 20; Porath 1998, 45). 

Islamic Residential Quarter 

In the mid-eighth century a new residential quarter was 
built with its own grid plan of paved streets, drains and 
wells. The plan of the quarter was based on a main north- 
south street and four east west streets intersecting at right 
angles The houses were built around centra) courtyards 
with a well and continued in use with some modifications 
for a period of 350 years (Yule & Rowsome 1994; Raban 
1998, 64-7). 

Crusader Period 

The Crusader city occupied the same area as the Fatimid 
period city and was located within the walls constructed 
during the Islamic period. A new cathedral was erected 
on the site of the Great Mosque and the city walls were 
strengthened. The Islamic residential quarter near the 
inner harbour went out of use and the area was used as a 
cemetery and later as a quarry for stone used in the repair 
of the town wall. 


There was clearly a considerable reduction in the size of 
the city from the Byzantine to the Crusader period (cf 
Figs. 50 and 51). The date of this transformation is not 
known though it appears to have been early in the Islamic 
period (perhaps during the tenth century when the circuit 
of the walls was reduced by the Fatimids). The precise 
reasons for this contraction are not known. One 
suggestion is that the city suffered considerably from the 
Islamic conquest and shrank to its medieval size soon 
afterwards (see for example Schick 1995, 278). Another 


The Towns of Palestine Under Muslim Rui* 

suggestion is that the city suffered as a result of the 
earthquake (or tidal wnve) that reduced Baysan/ 
Scythoplis in 749 AD. However it seems more likely that 
its decline is due to the construction of Ramla as a new 
capital in the early eighth century which diminished the 
importance of Caesarea (cf Wheadey 2001, 124). A 
related factor is that Caesarea' s position on the coast left 
it exposed to Byzantine attacks as in 972 (see above) and 
that it was therefore not considered a safe place 
particularly when the citadel was no longer in use. 



Jaffa is located on a kurkar ridge on the coast between 
Arsuf and Ashdod. As the best natural anchorage south of 
Acre the site has a continuous history of occupation from 
the Bronze age. During the Byzantine period the city was 
the seat of a bishop and was enclosed by walls (GPR 70- 
1; TIR 152-3). In the eighth century the biographer of 
Anglo-Saxon pilgrim Willibald noted that the city had a 
church dedicated to St.Peter (Wilkinson 1977, 132). In 
630 Jaffa had a Monothelite bishop who was opposed by 
the bishop of Tantura/Dor (Gil 1992, 663 ; Schick 1995, 
359-6). In 636 the city was captured by the Muslim Arabs 
though we have little information about the importance of 
the town at this time (Baladhuri ed. de Goeje, 1 38 : Gil 
1992. 55). During the Umayyad period Jaffa was one of a 
number of coastal towns which was fortified and 
garrisoned in preparation for Byzantine counter 
offensives (Baladhuri ed. de Goeje, 117; Elad 1997/8 
156-3; Gil 1992, 117) The foundation of Ramla as 
regional capital in the early eighth century probably 
increased the significance of Jaffa. This relationship 
between the two sites continued throughout the Islamic 

In the latter part of the eighth century the Abbasid 
governor of Egypt, Ibn Tulun, established a fortress at 
Jaffa on the ruins of the ancient city (Ibn Khaldun ed. al- 
Hurini 652 ; Gil 1992,459 n.74). In general, however, 
Jaffa does not appear to have been particularly important 
during this period, thus Gil (1992, 331) notes that it is 
mentioned in the Geniza documents much less frequently 
than either Ascalon or Tyre. At the end of the tenth 
century Muqaddasi describes it as follows; 'Jaffa is a 
small town on the sea. It is a storehouse (khizana) of 
Palestine and the port of Ramla. Over it is a mighty 
fortress, with iron clad gates, the sea gate being wholly of 
iron. The mosque overlooks the coast of the sea and the 
harbour is good' (ed. de Goeje also Le Strange 1890, 

In June 1099 AD the city was captured by the Crusaders 
who re-established it as a major port with a citadel and 
lower walled town (for a summary of the history of the 
Crusader period see Pringle 1993, 1 264-6). The castle 
was built on the remains of the ancient city and contained 
the residence of the Patriarch of Jerusalem as well as that 
of the count of Jaffa. The lower town had two gateways. 

one facing south towards Ascalon and the other faring 
Jerusalem and Ramla to the east. The city remaned under 
Crusader conlrol until 1268 (with the exception .of two 
periods between 1187 and 1191 and between 1196 and 
1204) when it was captured by the MamH, Sufcaa 
Baybars who personally took part in the destructK* of the 
city and its defences defences (Ibn al-Purat ed. Lyons ft 
Lyons, II. 108 and notes on 221). The significance of the 
capture of Jaffa was vividly recalled in an inscription 
(now lost) in the White Mosque of Ramla (RCEA , XII, 
No. 4588 and Max Van Berchem 1977) and in the 
removal of timber and marble for use in Baybars new 
mosque in Cairo (Bloom 1989. 193). 

During the fourteenth century there is some evidence of a 
recovery in the fortunes of the town which was brought to 
an abrupt end by when the city was razed and the harbour 
filled in to prevent its capture and re-used by Christian 
powers. For the remainder of the Mamfuk period and die 
early Ottoman period the site remained unimportant as a 
settlement thus in 1596 it had a population of 
approximately 75 (i.e. 15 families) (HOtteroth and 
Abdulfattah 1977, 151). However it was still important as 
a port for Christian pilgrims travelling to Jerusalem 12 . 


Because Jaffa developed as one of the major urban 
centres of Palestine in the latter Ottoman period much of 
the earlier city is today covered with buildings (Plates 
20-21 ). Although there has been some rescue archaeology 
carried out within the 'Old City' of Jaffa the results in 
general are inconclusive. However a few general 
observations may be made. Firstly the topography of the 
town appears to have remained more or less the same 
with an elevated ridge overlooking the harbour with a 
lower area on the east and south sides. Muqaddasi's 
description of the fort above the town implies that the fort 
was located on this raised area which was later used by 
the Crusaders for their citadel. The only archaeological 
evidence for these defences is a section of wall uncovered 
in 1978 which was built of stones bonded with re-used 
antique columns (Pringle 1993, 266). More recently 
evidence of a town wall was recovered in excavations 
though the exact date of the wall (i.e early Islamic or 
Crusader) is not clear (Peilstockeer and Priel 2000). 

Other evidence (published) for the early Islamic period is 
so far confined to pottery with no identifiable structures. 
There is some evidence for the Mamluk period in the 
form of some re-used architectural pieces in the sabil of 
the Great Mosque (Kanaan 2001, 203 n.7). 


Unfortunately the archaeological evidence is too patchy 

to provide any evidence for the town's layout or size. 

12 Although Christian pilgrims used the port there is also evidence thai it 

was used by merchants (see for example Heyd 1960 128-138 esp.Nos, 
80 and 82). 


Andrew Petersen 

Table 24. Jal ra Summary 



Early Islamic 



EartyOttoman 1 


A (7ha.) 

A (7ha.) 







H (mosque) 

Secular public 



A= Archaeological Evidence, H= Historical Evidence 



Majdal is located to the north east of the ancient city of 
Ascalon and is now one of the outer suburbs of the 
modern city of Ashqelon (Palestine Grid 1 108 1 196), It is 
possible that Majdal may be identified with the settlement 
of Migdal-yene mentioned in the campaign of the 
Pharaoh Amen-hotep II in the fifteenth century BC 
(Aharofli 1979, 166-8). In Roman times there was a 
settlement at the site known as Peleia (Palaia) (TIR, 200; 
GRP 86). In general, however, the site appears to have 
been of little importance until the medieval period. After 
the destruction of Ascalon by the Mamluk Sultan 
Baybars, Majdal became the regional centre. 
Unfortunately there are no direct references to the place 
from the Mamluk period. However in the 1596 daftar 
Majdal is referred to as a village in the nahiya of Gaza 
with a population of 559 khana (households), equivalent 
to a population of approximately 2790 people (Hiitteroth 
and Abdul fat tan, 1976, 144). As pointed out by Cohen 
and Lewis (1978, 19) this is twice the population of 
Ramla in the same period. The taxable produce of the 
settlement included occasional revenues, 'goats and bees' 
and a market toll (Hiitteroth and Abdulfattah, 1976, 144). 
Later in the eighteenth century Majdal, together with 
Ramla and Gaza was recognized as a regional centre with 
a mukhtar. 


There is no evidence that Majdal was of much importance 
before the medieval period. Excavations in 1991 near the 
centre of the town revealed a few Byzantine remains 
which the excavator described as follows 'This meagre 
living level probably represents a campsite of the 
Byzantine period* (Tahal 1995). Another excavation in 
the north of the town revealed a Roman family tomb 
which had fallen into disuse by the Byzantine period 
(Kogan-Zehavi 1996). 

Mamluk occupation at Majdal is indicated by the mosque 
(Jami' al-Kabir) located in the centre of the town (Plates 
22-25) This ie a large building comprising a minaret, a 

prayer hall with arched portico and a courtyard lined with 
arcades supported on re-used antique columns. An 
inscription above the entrance to the mosque recalls the 
construction of the building by the Amir Sayf al-Din 
Salar in 1300 AD (Meinicke 1992, II, 91). It is not clear 
how much of the mosque is of this date though the prayer 
hall, portico and minaret are certainly of Mamluk 
construction (the arcades around the portico were re-built 
during the late Ottoman period). 

The other building of interest within the town is the Sana' 
al-Saghir located approximately 500 metres to the south 
west of the main mosque. This is an 'L* shaped building 
comprising a vaulted arcade and an elongated chamber 
roofed by two cross vaults. A stone embedded into the 
wall bears an inscription stating that it is part of the Wali 
of Tamimi Idari and lists the property belonging to the 
waqf. The inscription is dated 958 H (1551-2 AD) (PAM 
File 135). 

Unfortunately much of the town has been destroyed since 
1 948 and, without excavation, it will be difficult to trace 
the origins of the settlement. The only other clue to the 
origins of the setdement is a map made in the early C20" 1 
(Fig. 48). 


Although it is not clear whether Majdal attained urban 
status in the Mamluk period the size of the mosque 
indicates something more than a village. By the sixteenth 
century the village had clearly attained urban status in 
terms of population, having a market and two mosques. 

Minat al-Qal'a 


This site is located on the coast between Jaffa and 
Ascalon (Palestine Grid 132 114). 

Little is known of the history of the site. In Byzantine 
times the settlement was known as Azotus Paralious and 
was shown on the sixth century Madaba map (TIR, 72). 
In the tenth century al-Muqaddisi (ad Miquel 209-10) 

j tin i owns uj ratesnne utuur Muslim Kute 

Table 25. Majdal Summary 


Early Islamic 




Early Ottoman 



A (50 ha.) 

A (50 ha.) 



A (mosques) 

A (mosques) 

Secular public 


H (market) 


mentions the port of Isdud as one of the coastal forts from 
which prisoners are ransomed. In the twelfth century the 
site was occupied by Nicolas de Beroard who was a 
knight of the Lord of Ramla (RRH, no.472). There is no 
mention of the site under the Ayyubids or Mamluks and 
one may assume that it was destroyed along with the 
other coastal towns' 3 . 


The remains of the town cover an area 1 km long by 500 
km wide stretching along the coast marked by Byzantine 
and medieval pottery (Fig.49) (PAM R.W.Hamilton 5- 
8/3/37; Kaplan 1969, Fig.2). The centre of the site is 
represented by the fortress of Minat al-Qal'a a large 
rectangular building with solid round buttress (Plate 26). 
Recent excavations have proved that the fort was 
probably constructed by the Umayyads although it was 
later remodelled by the Fatimids and the Crusaders 
(Nachlieli et al 2000: Pipano 1988, 165; Kloner and 
Berman 1970, 26; Conder & Kitchener 1882 Vol II, 426- 
7). In addition to the castle there are two other standing 
remains at the site each of which comprise a number of 
structures including a domed room (Plate 27) (PAM 
report by R.W.Hamilton 5-8/3/37; cf Dow 1996, 48, Plate 
29). Unfortunately the remainder of the area of the town 
has not been subjected to systematic archaeological 
investigation though a recent rescue excavation 
approximately two kilometres east of Minat al-Qal'a has 
revealed a series of structures dated to the ninth and tenth 
centuries ('Asa 'el 1992). According to the excavator one 
of these structures may have been ' a watchtower which 
formed part of a defensive system [of the town] in the 
early Islamic period' ('Asa 'el 1992, 40) 


It appears that this was the main settlement at 
Isdud/Ashdod between the Byzantine and Crusader 
periods (i.e. during the early Islamic period) and as such 
should be considered as a town. 

The survival of Gaza may be attributed lo two factors, (i) its 
proximity to Egypt and the Via Maris and (ii) the fact (hat it is located 
three kilometres form the coast and is not actually a port city, 

Minat Rubin 

This site is located on the coast between Ashdod and 
Jaffa near the mouth of the Nahr Rubin (Palestine Grid 
121 147). The harbour city of Jamnia (Yibna) is an 
ancient site mentioned both by Pliny and Ptolemy (GRP, 
67-8). We have very little historical information about the 
site but it can be assumed that it was captured by the 
Muslims in 634 AD (i.e the same times as the main 
town). In the latter part of the tenth century Muqaddisi 
describes Mahuz Yubna as one of a series of fortified 
posts along the coast (ed de Goeje, 177). The site appears 
to have been abandoned by the eleventh century. 


Unfortunately much of the town site is unavailable for 
archaeological work because it is occupied by a nuclear 
reactor complex built in I960 (Vilnay 1979, 254). Before 
the construction of the reactor the Site contained the 
remains of a port town contained with a semi-circular 
wall. Recent excavations near the city have revealed a 
series of cisterns and an irrigation system as well as 
tombs (Vitto 1983). Occupation of the site has been dated 
from the fifth to the end of the sixth century (Dauphin 
1998, 835, No. 364) The only medieval remains are the 
nearby tomb of Nabi Rubin built in 1436 (Petersen 1996 


The site evidently needs further archaeological 
investigation particularly focussing on when the site was 
abandoned and its relationship to Yibna. 



This site is located on the eastern edge of the coastal plain 

approximately midway between Arsuf and Caesarea 
(Palestine Grid 1497 1962).AIthough there was probably 
a village on the site before the twelfth century the 


ndrew Petersen 

Table 26. Minat al-Qal'a Summary 


Early Islamic 



Early Ottoman 

Size/ population 

A (40 ha.) 

A (40 ha.) 





A (mosque in 

Secular public 


A (bathouses) 





.haeological Evidei 

uce, H= Historical Evidence 

Table 27. Minat Rubin Summary 


Early Islamic 



Early Ottoman 









Secular public 





A= Archaeological Evidence. H= Historical Evidence 

establishment of a castle by the Crusaders sometime 
before 1 123 and possibly as early as 1 101 gave it added 
strategic significance. The settlement had a mixed 
Frankish and Syrian (Christian and Muslim) population. 
The existence of a burgess court suggests that the 
settlement had an urban status even though it appears to 
have been principally agricultural and military in 
character (for Crusader history of site see Pringle 1986, 

In 1265 Qaqun fell to Sultan Baybars who rebuilt the 
castle and reconstructed the church as a mosque (Ibn al- 
Furat ed. Lyons & Lyons (2), 101; al-Maqrizi trans 
Quatremere (I,2),40). Following the destruction of 
Caesarea and Arsuf Qaqun now became the principal 
Mamiuk centre for the central coastal plain (i.e from the 
Nahr al-Auja to the Nahr al-Zerka). In 1271 the 
Crusaders attempted to recapture the castle but were 
defeated after the Mamluks sent a relief force under amir 
Jamal al-Din Aqush al-Shamsi (Ibn al-Furat ed. Lyons & 
Lyons (2). 155; al-Maqrizi trans Quatremere (1,2), 101). 
The settlement later became a stop on the Cairo- 
Damascus post road and also served as a station for 
transporting snow from Lebanon to Cairo (Hartmann 
1910, 962). The importance of the setUement as a 
stopping place was re-enforced by the construction of a 
large caravanserai by 'Alam al-Din Sanjar al-Jawli in the 
early fourteenth century (Mayer 1933, 118). Qalqashandi 
(cd Ali, IV, 100) described Qaqun as a pleasant town 
with a fortress, a mosque, a bath and a well. 

It appears that Qaqun was no longer a military post under 
the Ottomans though the settlement was officially the 
centre of a nahiya in the sanjaq of Nablus (Bakhit 1982, 
209). However the population was small, thus the 1596 
daftar records a population of only 23 households 
(approximately 115 people) (Hutteroth and Abdulfattah 


In 1983 the site was surveyed by the British School of 
Archaeology and recovered a continuous sequence of 
pottery from the late Byzantine to modern periods 
(Pringle 1986, 58-71). Unfortunately the pre- 1948 village 
which stood on the site has been destroyed and the site 
has been planted with trees hampering any future 
archaeological investigation (Khalidi 1992, 559-60), The 
principal surviving monument is the Crusader keep and 
an enclosure wall which Pringle dates to the nineteenth 
century. The village mosque which stood until 1948 had a 
large dome which may have been of medieval 
construction (Husseini cited in Pringle 1986, 70). A 
number of medieval Arabic inscriptions were found at 
Qaqun before 1948 which indicate that it was a site of 
some significance (Richards 1986, 78-80). 


Although the site appears to have been a town in the 
Crusader period there are few urban characteristics with 
the exception of the burgess' court and a viscount. There 

The Towns of Palestine Under Muslim Rule 

I reputation 




Secular public 




TaMe 28. Qaqun Sommaiy 

Early Islamic 



Early Ottoman 

A (mosque) 

A (khan) 

A= Archaeological Evidence, H= Historical Evidence 

Table 29. Yubna/ Yibtm Summary 





Secular public 




A ('large') 

H (church) 

Early Islamic 


A (castte) 

A (church) 


H (small town) 

Early Ottoman 

H (pop-774) 

A (mosque 

and shrine) 

A (bridge) 

A= Archaeological Evidence, H= Historical Evidence 

is more evidence that Qaqun was a town in the Mamluk 
period on the evidence of Qalqashandi (ed Ali, IV, 100) 
and other Mamluk period references. It is clear that the 
significance of the site had been reduced by the early 
Ottoman period when the woods of Qaqun had become a 
place where travellers were likely to be attacked (Heyd 
1960,%). Unfortunately there is little archaeological 
evidence for Qaqun's urban status in the Mamluk period. 

Yubna/ Yibna /Ibelin 


Yibna is located on the coastal plain approximately five 
kilometres from the Mediterranean, midway between 
Jaffa and Ashdod (Palestine Grid 126 141). A modern 
Israeli settlement occupies the north of the ancient and 
medieval site. 

In Roman times the town was known as Iamnia and from 
the fourth century it functioned as an Episcopal see (T1R 
149-50; GPR 67) 1 *. According to Ya'qubi the town of 
Yibna was captured by Usama ibn Zayd in 632 AD on the 
orders of the prophet. However Gil believes that this is a 
mistaken identification and that a more likely date for the 
conquest of the town is 634 AD (1992, 4 land 55). In the 
Umayyad period Yibna was clearly important as one of 

m tonuiia app<»™ m ttv Madaha map as an unfortified seMemenl with a 
church (Donner 1992. 69). 

the few towns that minted its own coins. Ya'qubi (ed de 
Goeje) writing in the mid-ninth noted that in his time the 
town had a Samritan population. In the tenth century 
Muqaddasi described Yavne as a town with a pretty 
mosque and a producer of 'Damascus' figs (ed de Goeje, 
176). The strategic position of the town meant that it was 
the location of at least four battles between the Crusaders 
and the Muslims. By 1 123 the town was largely deserted 
and, according to Fulcher of Chartres, it had been reduced 
to the size of a small village. In 1141 the Crusaders 
established a castle and a church on the site which 
became the centre of a new Crusader town (Pringle 1997, 
109, No. 235; Pringle 1 993-, II, 378-84). In the thirteenth 
century Yaqut described Yibna as a small town (bulayda) 
(ed. Wustenfeld, IV, 1007). According to the 1596 daftar 
Yibna is a village with a population of 129 households 
(i.e. approximately 774) (Hutteroth and Abdulfattah 
1977. 143). 


The pre- 1948 village of Yabneh was located on a large 
tell with a circumference of 1.2 kilometres. Despite the 
evident importance of this site excavations have been 
very limited. A recent rescue excavation at the edge of 
the tell indicated that this was a large settlement in 
Byzantine times and that below this there were three 
metres of occupation (Levy 1991). Further evidence of 
the Byzantine and perhaps early Islamic period includes a 

musaic pavement and some tombs (Dauphin 1998, 84?) 


I marked by the dpwfc fr wpft on 
Kim»«di presumed to be 
the Tomb of Abu Hurayra and 

■ widgs. 

The church/ mosque has been discussed by a number of 
authors most notably Clermont Oannean (II, 168) who 
noted that the mosque, men in use, was a converted 
Crusader church. The church has been discussed by a 
number of authors most recently Pringle (1993-, II, 378- 
84) and the mosque has been described by L.A. Mayer 
(Mayer and PinkerfeW 1950, 20-24). The minaret of the 
mosque included an inscription stating that it was built by 
the amir Bashtaq in the year 738 AH (1335 AD). 
Although the location of the early Islamic mosque is not 
known it seems likely that it may have occupied the site 
upon which the Crusader church was later built. 
Unfortunately little survives of the Crusader castle though 
William of Tyre observed that it was built of stones 
robbed from the deserted Islamic period town. 

The tomb of Abu Hurayra, located to the south west of 
the tell, is a large well built monument comprising a 
domed tomb chamber and a portico of six domes (Plate 
33). The building is dated by two inscriptions one above 

the ©atrance to 
construction to 
another (now 
to the Mamluk Sultan 
Pinkerfeld 1950, 20-24). 

attributing the 

m 1293 and 

the construction 

1274 (Mayer and 

The fourth monument which has survived is a bridge 
crossing the Nahr Rubin which was probably one of a 
number of bridges built by Baybars (although there is no 
inscription confirming this). 


Although the historical information gives us some 
indication that Yibna was an important town in the early 
Islamic period there is no archaeological evidence for 
this. The archaeological evidence for the Crusader and 
Mamluk period is limited to the standing monuments. It 
would be very useful to have an excavation of this site 
both to confirm the importance of the site in early Islamic 
times and to compare the Crusader new town with the 
earlier and later Muslim towns. One further problem 
should be mentioned at this point is that the early Islamic 
town may have been located at the port as appears to have 
been the case with Isdud (see above Minat Rubin). 


Andrew Petersen 

Medieval occupation is marked by the church/mosque on 
the summit of the tell, some stone walls presumed to be 
part of the Crusader casde, the Tomb of Abu Hurayra and 

The church/ mosque has been discussed by a number of 
authors most notably Clermont Ganneau (fl, 168) who 
noted that the mosque, then in use, was a converted 
Crusader church. The church has been discussed by a 
number of authors most recently Pringle (1993-, 0, 378- 
84) and the mosque has been described by L.A. Mayer 
(Mayer and Pinkerfeld 1950, 20-24). The minaret of the 
mosque included an inscription stating that it was built by 
the amir Bashtaq in the year 738 AH (1335 AD). 
Although the location of the early Islamic mosque is not 
known it seems likely that it may have occupied the site 
upon which the Crusader church was later built. 
Unfortunately little survives of the Crusader castle though 
William of Tyre observed that it was built of stones 
robbed from the deserted Islamic period town. 

The tomb of Abu Hurayra, located to the south west of 
the tell, is a large well built monument comprising a 
domed tomb chamber and a portico of six domes (Plate 
33). The building is dated by two inscriptions one above 

the entrance to the mausoleum attributing the 
construction to Sulatan al-Ashraf Khalil in 1293 and 
another (now vanished) which attributes the construction 
to the Mamluk Sultan Baybars in 1274 (Mayer and 
Pinkerfeld 1950, 20-24). 

The fourth monument which has survived is a bridge 
crossing the Nahr Rubin which was probably one of a 
number of bridges built by Baybars (although there is no 
inscription confirming this). 


Although the historical information gives us some 
indication that Yibna was an important town irrthe early 
Islamic period there is no archaeological evidence for 
this. The archaeological evidence for the Crusader and 
Mamluk period is limited to the standing monuments. It 
would be very useful to have an excavation of this site 
both to confirm the importance of the site in early Islamic 
times and to compare the Crusader new town with the 
earlier and later Muslim towns. One further problem 
should be mentioned at this point is that the early Islamic 
town may have been located at the port as appears to have 
been the case with Isdud (see above Minat Rubin). 



Ramla is located on the southern coastal plain 
approximately twenty kilometres south east of Jaffa. 
Unlike most of the other towns in Palestine Ramla was 
founded by the Muslim Arabs and presents one of the few 
examples of Islamic urban planning on the west side of 
the Syrian desert. 

Although the foundation of the town by the Muslims is 
generally accepted by most historians it has occasionally 
been questioned most notably by Isa Shalom (1973) who 
argued that there are references to Ramla in pre-lslamic 
Jewish sources. It is also argued by Shalom and a few 
others that references to Ramla in Arabic sources pre- 
dating the eighth century prove that there must have been 
a settlement of this name before that time. However, on 
examination, both of Shalom's main arguments can be set 
aside. The references to Ramla in sources referring to the 
time before the eighth century are themselves of a later 
date and use the term Ramla anachronislically. The 
supposed references to Ramla in pre-lslamic Jewish 
literature depends on a rather unlikely interpretation of 
t'luiiah as sand rather than the more usual meaning of 

The earliest account of the foundation of the city is given 
by al-Baladhuri (255 AH / 869 AD): 

"The caliph al-Walid made his brother Sulayman 
Governor of the Province of Filastine, who took up his 
residence at Lydda. Sulayman subsequently founded the 
town of al-Ramlah, and made it his capital. The first 
building raised here was his palace and the house called 
Dar al-Sabbaghin (the House of Dyers)... Then Sulayman 
planned the mosque, and began to build it, but he 
succeeded to the caliphate before it was completed.' 
(Baladhuri trans LeStrange 1890, 301) 

The exact date of the foundation of the city is not stated 
though it must have been before 24* February 715 AD 
when the caliph al Walid died and was succeeded by his 
brother Sulayman. The new city rapidly developed as a 
regional capital as testified by the fact that coins were 
minted here as early as 720 AD. The nearby town of 
Lydda/Lod which had functioned as an economic capital 
under the Byzantines suffered as a consequence of 
Ramla's creation a fact which is explicitly stated in the 
sources, thus al-Ya*qubi (ed. Houtsma 1883, 351) states 
that the houses of Lydda were dismantled to provide 
building material for Ramla. 

By the tenth century the city was clearly very prosperous 
as indicated by al-Muqaddisi who described it as follows; 

Ramla is the capital of Palestine. It is a fine city, and well 
built; its water good and plentiful; its fruits abundant. It 

combines manifold advantages, situated as it is in the 
midst of beautiful villages and lordly towns... It 
possesses magnificent inns and pleasant baths, dainty 
food and various condiments, spacious houses, fine 
mosques and broad roads... The city occupies the area of 
a square mile; its houses are built of finely quarried 
stones. The best known among its gates are the Gate of 
the Soldier's well (Darb Bir a) 'Askar), the Gate of the 
'Annabah Mosque, the Gate of Jerusalem, the Gale of 
Bila'ah, the Lydda gate (Darb Llldd) the Jaffa Gate (Darb 
Yafa), the Egypt Gate (Darb Misr), and the Dajun Gate 
(Muqaddisi trans Le Strange 1886, 32-3). 

The economic prosperity of the city is confirmed in many 
other sources most notably the documents of the Cairo 
Genizah which indicate that Ramla was the centre of the 
import-export trade in relation to Egypt (cf Gil 1992, 

In the eleventh century the prosperity of the new city, and 
the rest of Palestine, was shaken by a number of man 
made and natural disasters. The principal natural disaster 
was the earthquake of 3 ri December 1033 for which 
Ramla seemed to be the epicentre. The earthquake 
destroyed two thirds of the city and the homeless were 
housed in tents outside the city provided by the governor 
of Ramla (Gil 1992, 595). Less than forty years later the 
city was struck by two further earthquakes in 1068 and 
1070 (Amiran 1950, 51, 227). Warfare between the 
Falimids and various enemies including the Qaramartis, 
the Turcomans and the beduin Arabs was equally 
devastating at this time and the city wall in Ramla had 
only just been rebuilt when the earthquake of 1033 struck 
(Gil 1992, 594). There is however some evidence that the 
city had recovered by the middle of the century thus the 
Persian traveller Nasir i-Khusrau described Ramla as ' a 
great city, with strong walls built of stone, mortared, of 
great height and thickness, with iron gates opening 
therein... In the city... there is marble in plenty, and most 
of the buildings and private houses are of this material' 
(Trans Le Strange 1888). 

In 1099 Ramla was taken by the Crusaders who found the 
city deserted with its gates open presumably out of fear of 
the new invaders. For the next two and a half centuries 
the city was under the control of the Franks who built a 
large church and a castle with a moat (William of Tyre 
trans. Babcock and Krey, 1, 438-9). In 1 191 the town was 
briefly recaptured by Saladin who destroyed the castle 
before it was handed over to joint Muslim Christian 
control by the Treaty of Jaffa in 1 192 (Baha' al-Din trans. 
PPTS 300-2 and 380-7). During the early thirteenth 
century the town appears to have been in a state of ruin 
passing in and out of the control of the Crusaders or the 
Muslims (see for example Joinville trans Shaw 1963. 
300-1). After the capture of Jerusalem from the Crusaders 
in 1244 Ramla seems to have been left largely 


Andrew Petersen 

unoccupied though nominally under Crusader control. In 
1266 formal Muslim authority was restored when 
Baybars arrived in the city to take control. 

Under the Mamluks there appears to have been some 
attempt at restoring the city to its former glory. To this 
end Baybars restored the White Mosque and in the 
following centuries a number of important buildings were 
constructed. The investment appears to have some impact 
thus in the early fourteenth century Abu al-Fida (ed. 
Renaud & de Slane 226-7) describes it as the most 
populous city of Palestine (Lutfi 1985, 219). Cotton was 
one of the main products of the city during this period 
although agriculture and trade were also important 
(Newett 1907, 239). Economically the city appears to 
have been important enough for the Venetians to 
establish a colony there (Ashtor 1983, 254). Nevertheless 
by the end of the fifteenth century Ramla had still not 
fully recovered its former glory as indicated by Mujir al- 
Din's description;- 

Of the town there remains not even a third, nor even a 
quarter. Some new mosques and new minarets have been 
constructed there since the time of ' Abd al-Malik al-Nasir 
Muhammad Qalawun and after. The buildings that exist 
at present in the town are for the most part destroyed or in 
ruin. The community mosque is at present surrounded by 
cemeteries ... Of former constructions around the mosque 
there only remains a quarter adjoining it in the north side 
which is reduced to the state of a village. The city has 
thus become separated from the mosque (Mujir al-Din , II 

The administrative status of Ramla during the Mamluk 
period fluctuated. In the early I400's the Governor of 
Jerusalem and Ramla was a joint post appointed by the 
governor of Damascus. Sometime between 1468 and 
1496 Ramla was transferred from the authority of the 
Governor of Damascus to the governor of Gaza. In 1494 
the control of Ramla was returned to the governor of 
Jerusalem. The following year in 1495 Jerusalem, Ramla, 
Gaza and Hebron were all placed under the control of a 
single governor. During most of this period the official 
representative of the Mamluk authority in the city appears 
to have been the kashif or tax collector (see also 
Burgoyne and Abu al-Hajj 1979, 135-6). 

The city suffered as a result of the Ottoman conquest 
when the citizens were punished for their disobedience to 
the new rulers (Singer 1990, 57). Descriptions of the 
town in the latter part of the sixteenth century indicate 
that the town was in a greatly reduced condition thus 
Dr.Rauwolf who visited in 1575 described Ramla as "... 
pretty large, but very open like unto a village, very 
pitifully built (cited in Ray 1963, 1, 270). This picture of 
decline is echoed in the Ottoman official documents 
which place Ramla as capital of a nahiya in the liwa of 
Gaza, in other words Ramla was now a sub-district of 
Gaza. The tax registers give a similar story of a town in 
lessening importance, thus in AD 1525/6 there was a 
population of approximately 2040 (336 households) 

rising to 3749 (610 households) in AD 1548/9 and 
declining to 1698 in AD 159677 (Cohen and Lewis 1978, 

Archaeology (Appendix 1, Table 4) 


At present the city is divided into two parts, the 'Old 
City' which contains a number of Mamluk and Ottoman 
buildings and the new city (established since 1948). The 
two best known monuments are both in the new city, 
these are the White Mosque (Jami* al-Abiyad) and the Bir 
al-'Anaziyya. The White Mosque is generally identified 
as the mosque founded by Sulayman in the early eighth 
century though most of the present structure is of 
medieval date. Approximately 500 metres north of the 
White Mosque is the al-'Anaziyya cistern which is the 
only extant structure in Ramla which is can be dated to 
the early Islamic period. The monuments of the old city 
are less well known and include several important 
medieval and Ottoman structures. Medieval buildings 
include the great Mosque (originally built as a church by 
the Crusaders in the twelfth century), the sixteenth 
century mosque of Abu al'Awn and a large khan on the 
edge of the town. In addition there are several shaykhs 
tombs of Mamluk origin (Petersen 1995). Buildings 
which are known to have existed but of which no remains 
have been identified include a hospital founded by Fakhr 
al-Din (d.1332) and a madrassa, zawiyya or khanqah 
known as the Khassikiyya which flourished in the late 
fourteenth and early fifteenth centuries (Burgoyne 1983, 
61 Khassikiyya & 259 hospital). 


Archaeological excavations have taken place in the city 
since the Mandate Period although few have been 
published in any detail. The first Israeli excavations were 
carried out by J. Kaplan in 1949 and were published in 
1 959 along with some additional soundings carried out in 
1956 (see Kaplan 1959). 

The next major excavations were carried out by M.Rosen 
Ayalon and A. Eitan (1966; 1969) in an area to the north 
west of the White Mosque 1 . The number of excavations 
has increased significantly during the past ten years when 
the new city was expanded to house new immigrants 
from the former Soviet Union. Many of these are 
summarised in a booklet recently produced by the CBRL 
and Israel Antiquities Authority (Vitto and Gibson 1999). 
In addition to the excavations a geophysical and 
topographic survey have been carried out (Petersen 2000 
and 2001). 

1 Mote; in the published reports the location of the site is consistently 
given as south west of the city (eg Rosen- Ayalon and Eitan 1966 and 
1969) though a map attatched to a later publication (Rosen-AyoJon 
1976) shows the area of Giorah to the north west of the White Mosque. 
In this discussion 1 have taken the map as more reliable indicator of 

location than the written description. 


1 fie l Ctv/U uj rutesiun u/wei axuuunt »»tc 

In view of the large number of excavations that have 
taken place the results will be discussed under a number 
of headings. 

White Mosque (JamT al-AMyad) (Fig. 62 and Plates 


This is clearly the most significant monument in the city 
and consequently it has received considerable attention 
from archaeologists. The standing remains comprise three 
major components, the minaret, the cisterns and the 
prayer hall set within a large nearly square enclosure. 
Although the majority of the standing remains belong to 
the medieval period it has generally been assumed that 
the building occupies the site and retains much of the 
shape of the eighth century mosque described by al- 
Baladhuri and later by al-Muqaddisi and Nasir i- 
Khusraw. In the nineteenth century the building attracted 
the attention of a number of archaeologists including the 
Survey of Western Palestine (Conder and Kitchener 
1882,271) though it was not until the 1950's that the first 
excavations were carried out under the direction of 
Kaplan (1959). Between 1979 and 1980 further work was 
carried out by Ben Dov immediately outside the north 
wall of the White Mosque (Ben Dov 1984). More 
recently (1998) an architectural survey of the sanctuary of 
the mosque was carried out by Michael Burgoyne as part 
of a CBRL project on Ramla 1 . 

Kaplan's excavations were aimed at uncovering the 
foundations of the White Mosque and were not concerned 
with establishing a stratigraphic sequence. Three main 
phases were identified on the basis of a number of 
soundings and comparison of the mortars used. The first 
phase was dated to the Umayyad period, the second phase 
was ascribed to the Ayyubid period (Salah al-Din) and 
the third phase was assigned to the Mamluk period. 
According to the report finds from the excavations were 
from mixed layers with a predominance of Crusader and 
Mamluk sherds. 

Ben Dov who excavated the area immediately outside the 
north wall of the White Mosque (Ben Dov 1984) 
identified five structural phases 1) an Umayyad wall 2) an 
Abbasid-Fatimid vaulted arcade 3) the minaret, 4) a 
Mamluk wall (post 1318) 5) a series of vaulted cells built 
up against the wall dated by pottery to the 14' -16 

Examination of the plans and sections published by Ben- 
Dov shows a discrepancy between his results and those of 
Jacob Kaplan produced more than twenty years earlier. 
According to Kaplan the north wall of the enclosure 
should be dated to the Umayyad period whereas Ben-Dov 
appears to date the same wall to the Mamluk period (i.e. 
it post dates the minaret). The problem can be partially 
explained by noting that the wall abutting the minaret in 
Ben-Dov's section has a horizontal break, the upper part 
post-dating the minaret and the lower part belonging to an 
earlier phase dated to the Abbasid-Fatimid period. If we 
accept Ben-Dov's conclusions it would appear that the 

foundations which Kaplan dates to the Umayyad period 
should be dated to the Abbasid-Fatimid period. The 
presence of an earlier wall indicates that the alignment of 
the north wall may have been different in the original , 
Umayyad period mosque. It is interesting that this earlier 
wall alignment is parallel to that of the central and 
western parts of the qibla (south) wall (i.e. not the east 
end of the south wall and the east wall) and the square 
structure in the middle (see below). Unfortunately there is 
no published discussion or illustration of the pottery so 
that it is difficult to verify Ben-Dov's dating. 

Michael Burgoyne's 1998 survey of the mosque 
(u published) provides further confirmation that Kaplan's 
interpretation of the phasing of the building is not correct. 
Burgoyne's most important finding is that the central part 
of the prayer hall is different from and probably earlier 
than the east and west sides (this is based on an 
examination of the hood mouldings which run across the 
front of the qibla arcade). The remains of muqarnas 
squinches on the bay immediately in front of the mihrab 
(visible on unpublished Creswell photographs) indicates 
that this area was once covered by a dome which was 
added to a pre-existing set of cross vaults. The dome can, 
with some certainty, be identified with that built by 
Baybars' in AD 1266 as part of his reconstruction of the 
mosque commemorated in an inscription (now lost) 
(Conder and Kitchener 1883,11, 272 ; Van Berchem 1978, 
405-9) 2 . Therefore the vaults on which the dome rest 
should be dated to a period before 1266. The most 
probable explanation is that these arcades were built 
during the Ayyubid period , probably in 586 AH (i.e. 
AD1 190/1) according to an inscription built into the 
maqam of Nabi Slaih in the north-west comer of the 
mosque 3 . 

Square Structure 

The only other part of the mosque on the same alignment 
as the central part of the qibla wall is a square structure 
(now almost completely destroyed) which stood midway 
between the minaret and the prayer hall 4 . This structure 
was excavated by Kaplan who described it as follows; 

'in the centre of the courtyard were uncovered the 
foundations of a massive structure measuring 8m. x 8m. 
with foundations 1.7m wide going down to 1,2m below 
ground-level. Around the structure is a low wall 
supporting and retaining the earth thus forming a part of 

2 Sec also Pringle (1993-Churches U. 187) which should now be 

3 It should be noted that Mujir al-Din also Btatcd that Baybars built the 
dome which is above the mihrab and the door which faces it (trans 
Sauvaire 207). 

* Mayer who published this inscription <Mayer 1959) thought that it 
could not refer to the White Mosque because of the lowly status of the 
lowly status of h/as the person responsible for commissioning the work 
and because of the clumsy style of the script. However the inscription 
does clearly refer to a Friday Mosque, it is located within the precincts 
of the White Mosque and it does coincide with the period when Saladin 
briefly had control of the town before handing it over to joint control in 


Andrew Petersen 

the platform around it. The purpose of this structure is not 

The position of this building in the centre of the mosque 
courtyard and its strong construction suggest that it may 
have been the bayt al-mal or place where the community 
stored its money. Support for this hypothesis is provided 
by the fact that we know that Sulayman also built the bayt 
al-mal for the Mosque of *Amr in Fustat in 99 AH (717- 
18)(Creswell 1989, 126). 


The other notable features of the courtyard are the three 
underground cisterns. Two of these were cleared during 
the British Mandate and the third was discovered during 
Kaplan's excavations. Although an inscription in the 
north-west cistern is dated to 1408 this clearly refers to 
repairs or re-plastering and does not appear to be a 
construction date (Mayer 1959, 1 I7,B). Kaplan does not 
venture an opinion on their date of construction though he 
does point out their similarity to the al-'Anaziyya cisterns 
(Kaplan 1959, 110 n.6; see also Rosen- Ayalon 1996, 
262). The alignment of the cisterns follows that of the 
east end of the qibla wall, and the east and north walls 
(i.e. neither the west wall nor the west end of the qibla 
wall) and is therefore likely to date from a similar period 
(i.e Abbasid /Fatimid or later). 


The square minaret in the centre of the north wall of the 
courtyard is dated to 1318 by an inscription above the 
entrance (Max Van Berchem 1978, 409, N.2 , Conder and 
Kitchener, II, 272; Mayer 1954, 127, T.14 ; Mujir al-Din 
trans Sauvaire, 206). Kaplan excavated soundings at the 
north-easi and south-east corners in order to establish 
whether the Mamluk structure replaced an earlier 
minaret. Kaplan's excavations revealed that the 
fourteenth century minaret stood on the destroyed 
remains of the north wall. This result was confirmed by 
Ben-Dov's excavations in the 1980's. 


It is clear from the above that the structural history of the 
mosque is in need of further investigation before any 
definitive conclusions can be drawn. In the meantime a 
few observations are possible which are summarised 
below and in Figure 62; 

1) It seems likely that the original Umayyad orientation 
of the mosque is represented by the central and western 
section of the qibla wall, the earliest wall to the north 
of the minaret, and the square structure in the centre of 
the courtyard/ 

2) In a later phase dated by Ben-Dov to the Abbasid / 
Fatimid period the orientation was revised (for another 
example of changing the orientation of a mosque see 

CieswcH's. Uibuuwiun of Wash). Other features. 

belonging to this phase include the cisterns and a range 
of shop units outside the north wall of the mosque. 

3) A third phase is represented by the back wall of the 
central bay and the mihrab which clearly pre-date the 
construction of the dome above in 1266. Both the wall 
and the mihrab have a medieval appearance and are 
probably part of the reconstruction of the mosque 
following the earthquakes of the eleventh century. 
According to Mujir al-Din the mosque was repaired by 
Salah al-Din in 1 190. It is likely that Mujir al-Din 
based this statement on an Ayyubid inscription which 
is now built into the north wall of the mosque near the 
tomb of Nabi Salih. Mayer who published the 
inscription thought that it was unlikely to refer to the 
White Mosque because of the poor quality of the 
epigraphy, the low status of the builder (lyas) and the 
fact that it referred to a repair rather than a new 
construction. Instead Mayer suggested that the 
inscription came from another unknown building 
(1959, 116-7). However the physical evidence of the 
White Mosque indicates an Ayyubid phase for which 
die inscription may provide additional support. The fact 
that the inscription only refers to a repair or re-building 
is consistent with the remains and the low status of lyas 
may simply reflect the fact that Ayyubid control of the 
city was only short-lived (one year at this time). 

4) This phase is represented by the dome above the 
mihrab and the east and west wings of the qibla wall 
characterised by the buttresses with sloping cills. The 
date of this phase is given by the Baybars inscription of 

5) This phase includes the minaret built in 1318 and 
probably includes the arcade on the east side of the 
courtyard which butts against the sanctuary facade 
clearly indicating it is of later date. 

6) This phase includes the ma^am/inausoleum excavated 
by Ben-Dov and a range of shop units built on the 
outside of the north wall of the courtyard. 

Water Supply 

There is considerable historical and archaeological 
evidence which relates to the water supply of Ramla. As a 
new town Ramla did not have an adequate natural water 
supply and according to the islamic geographers water 
was brought in via a channel known as the Barada after 
the river which flows through Damascus. It is probable 
that this channel should be identified with the aqueduct 
known as Qanat Bint al-Kafir which until recently could 
be traced form its source near Gezer to the outskirts of 

A section of this channel has recently been investigated 
by the Israel Antiquities authority which revealed a 
channel wide made of fieldstones set in mortar (Zelinger 
2000). Another section of the same channel was recently 
detected by magnetomerty confirming the route indicated 
on the Palestine Exploration Fund map. In addition to this 
main channel a further section of aqueduct was detected 
to the west of the city (Petersen 2001). 

Baladhun states mat the water supply 01 me euy was, pom 
for by the caliphs tinder the Umayyads and early 
Abbasids until the reign of al-Mu'tasim who made the 
habitants of the city pay an annual charge for the 
service (Le Strange 1890, 304). An example of the 
ctliphal patronage of the waters system is the al- 
'Anariyya cisterns. After the White Mosque this, is best 
known monument in Raima is the al-'Anaziyya cisterns 
dtted by inscription to 789 AD during the reign of the 
Abbasid caliph Harun al-Rashid (Plate 41). The cisterns 
comprise six vaulted bays supported by cruciform piers 
(Hate* 39 and 40). Architecturally the cisterns are 
important as the earliest example of the consistent use of 
me pointed arch {Creswell 1989, 284-5). 

la addition to the Bir al-'Anaziya a number of other 
cisterns are known. One of these, Birkat Bint al-Kafir 
(bow built over), is located between the al-Anaziya 
easterns and the White Mosque. The date of this cistern is 
not known though its name and location suggests that it 
formed part of the early Islamic system. To the east of the 
OW city there is another open cistern known as Birkat al- 
Jbbotus (cistern of the water Buffalo). 

By the eleventh century the public water system appears 
to have been unable to supply the needs of the 
inhabitants, thus Nasir i Khusrau (trans Le Strange 1 888, 
148) relates that the citizens had their own private 
cistems. Confirmation of the dilapidated condition of the 
town's cisterns can be found in Joinville's account of a 
skirmish near Ramla where a man and three horses fell 
i into a cistern (Joinville trans Shaw, 301). A large number 
| of domestic cisterns (over 20) have been excavated all of 
which are bottle shaped and lined with stone (see Fig. 57 
«BdTabk33Mos. 1,15,18,20,26.27,28,31 and 37). 


Pottery Production 

The remains of at least four pottery workshops have been 
found (see Fig. 58). The most well publicised is that 
excavated by Miriam Rosen Ayalon and Abaraham Eitan 
in an area to the north west of the White Mosque 5 . An 
rat of approximately 250 square metres was uncovered 
to a depth of two metres (Rosen Ayalon and Eitan 1966, 
148). A large quantity of finds were recovered including 
pottery, glass, carved stone and metalwork. Part of the 
she appears to have been a potter's workshop with lamp 
moulds, wasters and a Cray containing coloured glazes. 
Although four straugraphic layers were observed the 
fads were not classified according to layer but presented 
w 'homogenous in all four strata' and dated to the eighth 
century (Rosen Ayalon and Eitan 1969, 4). A contempor- 

1 Center ind Kitchener (0, 1883. 271) describe this building as 'a small 
__toed building or chapel' and give a depiction of the building with a 
•Arab niche in the middle of the south wall. However it seems likely 
g the building seen by Conder and Kitchener was a later building 
iiii—iiiiIiiiI on the ruins of an earlier Islamic structure as excavated by 
; Kaplan (there is for example no trace of the mihrab shown by Conder 

Uiy UIIl/UUlaBUVU yAvaittuvu •*/ ■ •« ••••»' ^■■■■i' — — -— 

distant... also yielded the same material* (Rosen Ayaloi 
and Eitan, 1969, 4). Further excavations (also unpub 
lished) 'near the centre of the old city' recovered sumls 
material buried at considerable depth beneath thirteen! 
to fourteenth century pottery. A comparison of the vesse 
illustrated with finds from other sites suggests that muc 
of the material belongs to the ninth and tenth centurit 
rather than the eighth century as Rosen Ayalon suggests. 

Other excavations that revealed evidence of potte 
production include Glick's 1992 excavations whii 
recovered pottery moulds (Glick 2000), Torge" 
excavations in the Central Bus Station which found ki 
furniture (Torge 1999, 49-50) and the excavations of Sh 
and Avissar both of which uncovered pottery kilns (Sh 
1999: Avissar 2000). Most of the pottery appears to ha 
been buffware produced in the eight-ninth centuri 
although Torge's excavations revealed evidence 
Mamluk period pottery production. 


Only two excavations revealed evidence for metalwc 
these were Glick's 1992 excavations (No. 13 on Mi 
which encountered metal slag and Gutfeld's excavati 
(No. 19 on map) which recovered metal objects and me 
slag. Other evidence for metalwork is a hoard of g( 
coins discovered in the vicinity of the White Mosc 
which was dated to the tenth century and is believed to 
a goldsmith's hoard (Levy and Mitchell 1965/66). Th. 
is no evidence for metalworking after the elevei 


There has been a considerable interest in the evidence 
textile dyeing because the Dar al-Sabbaghin (House 
Dyers) was one of the earliest buildings in the c 
Evidence for textile dyeing was found in se' 
excavations (Fig. 55). In most cases the evidence was 
the form of plaster lined vats with (races of red pigmi 
For example excavations outside the north wall of 
White Mosque in the winter of 1991 uncovered 
installation connected with the dying industry and da 
to the eighth/ninth century (Plates 42 and 43) ( Ros 
Ayalon 1996, 253-4; Porath and Ilani 1993 11* and " 
There is no evidence for dyeing installations from 
medieval period (i.e. twelfth century onwards). 

Markets and Trade 

Historical sources give considerable information at 
the trade and markets of Ramla (see for example 
1992). Some of this information has been corroboratec 
archaeological evidence. For example Muqaddasi w 
that the Friday mosque was located in the market 
Ben-Dov's excavations showed that a row of sh 
existed along the north wall of the White mosque in 
Abbasid-Fatimid periods. Further evidence for trad 
provided by a tenth century waqf inscription which re 

Baladhuri states that the water supply of the city was paid 
for by the caliphs under the Umayyads and early 
Abbasids until the reign of al-Mu'tasim who made the 
inhabitants of the city pay an annual charge for the 
service (Le Strange 1890, 304). An example of the 
caliphal patronage of the waters system is the al- 
'Anaziyya cisterns. After the White Mosque this is best 
known monument in Rami a is the al-'Anaziyya cisterns 
dated by inscription to 789 AD during the reign of the 
Abbasid caliph Harun al-Rashid (Plate 41). The cisterns 
comprise six vaulted bays supported by cruciform piers 
(Plates 39 and 40). Architecturally the cisterns are 
important as the earliest example of the consistent use of 
the pointed arch (Creswell 1989, 284-5). 

In addition to the Bir al-'Anaziya a number of other 
cisterns are known. One of these, Birkat Bint al-Kafir 
(now built over), is located between the al-Anaziya 
cisterns and the White Mosque. The date of this cistern is 
not known though its name and location suggests that it 
formed part of the early Islamic system. To the east of the 
Old city there is another open cistern known as Birkat al- 
Jammus (cistern of the water Buffalo). 

By the eleventh century the public water system appears 

to have been unable to supply the needs of the 

| inhabitants, thus Nasir i Khusrau (trans Le Strange 1 888, 

148) relates that the citizens had their own private 

cisterns. Confirmation of the dilapidated condition of the 

town's cisterns can be found in Joinville's account of a 

ridrmish near Ramla where a man and three horses fell 

; iMo a cistern (Joinville trans Shaw, 301 ). A large number 

r of domestic cisterns (over 20) have been excavated all of 

■■ which are bottle shaped and lined with stone (see Fig. 57 

I Table 33 Nos. 1,15,18, 20, 26, 27,28,31 and 37). 


Iftttery Production 

[lie remains of at least four pottery workshops have been 
[fond (see Fig. 58). The most well publicised is that 
[novated by Miriam Rosen Ayalon and Abaraham Eitan 
til in area to the north west of the White Mosque 5 . An 
mm of approximately 250 square metres was uncovered 
(to a depth of two metres (Rosen Ayalon and Eitan 1966, 
j 148). A large quantity of finds were recovered including 

Cvy, glass, carved stone and metal work. Part of the 
appears to have been a potter's workshop with lamp 
wasters and a tray containing coloured glazes. 
Ugh four stratigraphic layers were observed the 
: were not classified according to layer but presented 
f "homogenous in all four strata' and dated to the eighth 
• (Rosen Ayalon and Eitan 1969, 4). A contempor- 

r and Kitchener (U, 1 883, 27 1 ) describe this building as 'a small 
I holding or chapel* and give a depiction of the building with a 
I niche in the middle of the south wall. However it seems likely 
I *e twkftng seen by Conder and Kitchener was a later building 
I on (he ruins of an earlier Islamic structure as excavated by 
i (there is for example no trace of the mihrab shown by Conder 
I883.IL 271). 

ary unpublished, excavation t>y A. uruxs some 3-jum. 
distant... also yielded the same material* (Rosen Ayalon 
and Eitan, 1969, 4). Further excavations (also unpub- 
lished) 'near me centre of the old city' recovered similar 
material buried at considerable depth beneath thirteenth 
to fourteenth century pottery . A comparison of the vessels 
illustrated with finds from other sites suggests that much 
of the material belongs to the ninth and tenth centuries 
rather than the eighth century as Rosen Ayalon suggests. 

Other excavations that revealed evidence of pottery 
production include Glick's 1992 excavations which 
recovered pottery moulds (Glick 2000), Torge's 
excavations in the Central Bus Station which found kiln 
furniture (Torgg 1999, 49-50) and the excavations of Shor 
and Avissar both of which uncovered pottery kilns (Shor 
1999: Avissar 2000). Most of the pottery appears to have 
been buffware produced in the eight-ninth centuries 
although Torge's excavations revealed evidence of 
Mamluk period pottery production. 


Only two excavations revealed evidence for metalwork 
these were Glick's 1992 excavations (No. 13 on Map) 
which encountered metal slag and Gutfeld's excavation 
(No. 19 on map) which recovered metal objects and metal 
slag. Other evidence for metalwork is a hoard of gold 
coins discovered in the vicinity of the White Mosque 
which was dated to the tenth century and is believed to be 
a goldsmith's hoard (Levy and Mitchell 1965/66). There 
is no evidence for metalworking after the eleventh 


There has been a considerable interest in the evidence for 
textile dyeing because the Dar al-Sabbaghin (House of 
Dyers) was one of the earliest buildings in the city. 
Evidence for textile dyeing was found in seven 
excavations (Fig. 55). In most cases the evidence was in 
the form of plaster lined vats with traces of red pigment. 
For example excavations outside the north wall of the 
White Mosque in the winter of 1991 uncovered an 
installation connected with the dying industry and dated 
to the eighth/ninth century (Plates 42 and 43) ( Rosen- 
Ayalon 19%, 253-4; Porath and Dani 1993 U* and 33). 
There is no evidence for dyeing installations from the 
medieval period (i.e. twelfth century onwards). 

Markets and Trade 

Historical sources give considerable information about 
the trade and markets of Ramla (see for example Gil 
1992). Some of this information has been corroborated by 
archaeological evidence. For example Muqaddasi wrote 
that the Friday mosque was located in the market and 
Ben-Dov's excavations showed that a row of shops 
existed along the north wall of the White mosque in the 
Abbasid-Fatimid periods. Further evidence for trade is 
provided by a tenth century waqf inscription which refers 


Andrew Petersen 

to a khan in Ramla (Sharon 1968) and the goldsmith's 
hoard referred to above. 

Two medieval khans are known, one (now destroyed) 
was located near to the centre of the medieval city 
immediately to the west of the Crusader church and the 
other (Khan al- Idham) is located to the south of the town 
and may even have been outside. There were also 
facilities for Europeans thus there was a Franciscan 
hospice located in the west of the town which housed 
Christian pilgrims and a Venetian merchants' colony 
though the location of this is not known. 

Domestic Occupation 

Generally domestic occupation is indicated by plaster 
floors, tabuns, cisterns, drains, refuse tips and cess pits. 
Very few walls relating to domestic buildings have 
survived so that complete house plans are rare. Some of 
the houses of the early Islamic period were evidently 
luxurious as can be inferred from the fact that some were 
decorated with mosaic floors. For example excavations in 
Tav-Kav Beth during 1973 uncovered a set of three 
mosaics which 'apparently... [belonged] to a rather well 
to do private dwelling' (Rosen- Ayalon 1976, 119). Two 
of the mosaics formed part of the same floor and were in 
the form of carpels containing animal and vegetal motifs 
set with geometric guilloches borders. The other mosaic, 
which was probably from the same house comprised a 
depiction of a mihrab containing a Quranic inscription 
(7/205). More recently a fourth mosaic has been 
excavated which contains a depiction of animals (Plate 
44) (Glick and Gamil 2000). 

The remains of a few Mamluk period were excavated by 
Torge (1999) at the northern edge of the medieval city 
though few details are available. 


Although the tenth century writer al-Muqaddasi mentions 

the fact that Ramla had at least eight gates he does not 

discuss the city walls. The first specific description of the 

fortifications is given by Nasir i-Khusraw who states that 

the city has '...strong walls built of stone, mortared, of 

great height and thickness, with iron gates opening 

therein' (PPTS trans. Le Strange, 21). When the 

Crusaders took control of the city less than fifty years 

later it was described as surrounded by a wall with 

towers, though it was also noted that it had neither outer 

defences nor a moat. The Crusaders accordingly fortified 

a part of the site with a moat and a stronghold (William 

of Tyre trans. Babcock and Krey I, 438-9). It may be 

presumed that the Crusader settlement comprised a castle 

or keep and a civilian settlement which included the 

Crusader church (later Jami' al-Kebir). However the 

defences appear to have been severely reduced by the end 

of the twelfth century and by 1252-3 appear to have been 

merely ruins (Joinville trans Shaw 300-1 which describe* 

a Frenchman hiding in the walls of Ramla). In the 

although they were not particularly strong (Casola 1494, 

The archaeological evidence for the fortifications is very 
restricted and the only excavation which claims to have 
uncovered part of the walls is a short note by Don Glick. 
As this is the only known archaeological description of 
the fortifications it is worth quoting the relevant parts of 
the report in full; 

Two parallel, massive east-west walls (width 3m, height 
4.5m) were exposed in the trench 21m apart. The walls 
were built of large fieldstones set into black cement and 
gravel ...Part of an arched passage (width 2.5m) was 
exposed when the north wall was excavated; the east part 
of the arch can be seen in the east section of the channel. 
Glick 2000. 

Two further trenches were opened to trace the course of 
the north wall. Both walls were dated to the 9 a '-9 

The only other possible evidence of fortification comes 
from an excavation by Avissar and Barbe on the eastern 
edge of the old city. The relevant part of the report states; 
These earlier [8 th -9 th century] remains were substantially 
cut in its central part by one deep trench with vertical 
sides. The fills in the trench contained numerous 
architectural debris: stones with adhering mortar and 
plaster, and paving slabs... the pottery from the fill 
suggests a date in the Crusader period (12 -13 
centuries) (Avissar and Barbe' 1999) 

Unfortunately the precise location and the orientation of 
the cut were not given though its location on the eastern 
edge of the old city is consistent with what we known of 
Crusader occupation of the city. 

One further observation on the fortifications during the 
Crusader period may be made based on the analysis of 
the contour plan produced between 1997 and 1999 
(Petersen 2000). It is noticeable from the contour plan 
that the highest area of the current 'Old City' is located in 
the area now occupied by the Mamluk/Ottoman baths 
(Hammam al-Ridwan). The ground around this elevated 
area slopes down before levelling off to form a flat area 
to the south, east and north which may be the remains of 
the moat which we know surrounded the castie. 

City Plan 

It is often stated that 'Anjar is a similar development to 
Ramla so that whenever Ramla is discussed plans of 
'Anjar are reproduced implying that they would have had 
a similar layout. However there is no archaeological 
evidence for this; the fact that they were founded at 
roughly the same time by similar patrons is no guarantee 
that they had identical plans. In fact comparison with 

other early Muslim foundations suggests that the pl»n of 
'Anjar has more in common with the desert castles than 
with-Other urban foundations. 

me tUWfU VJ 1 a»ei»»»»>t. wn»n 


It can be seen that a large amount of information has been 
produced by the excavations (see Table 33) though there 
is little information that can be used to reconstruct the 
overall plan of the city in different periods. One possible 
approach is to asses the frequency of pottery from 
different periods in each location to give a rough 
indication of the area of settlement in different periods. 
Unfortunately the published reports to not give enough 
information on which to base statistical analysis and any 
assessments can only be of general guidance. 

Despite these difficulties a few general observations can 
be made which may help in understanding the topography 
of the early Islamic and medieval city. 

1) The natural ground level of Ramla is not flat as is often 
assumed but rather comprises a low hill which rises to 
a point of 14 metres above the surrounding plain 
(Petersen 2000). The two high points of the city are the 
area around the White Mosque and the area around the 
bathhouse (Hammam al-Ridwan) in the Old City. The 
ground level around the bathhouse is artificially high 
and excavations in the old city indicate that this is a 
result of occupation debris from the medieval period 
and earlier which has a depth of several metres. 
However in the area around the White tower the natural 
ground surface is fairly close to the present day surface 
(cf. Rosen- Ayalon and Eitan 1969, 4). 

2) The most significant remains have been found to the 
east of the White Mosque (e.g. the al-'Anaziyya 
cisterns, the houses with mosaics and the medieval 
buildings of the old city). 

3) The present-day network of streets, roads and lanes 
may reflect the layout of the city in earlier periods (for 
a discussion of the principles and techniques of this 
form of analysis see Lilley 2000, 7-15). Particularly 
important are the Jerusalem- Jaffa road which crosses 
the site from south-east to North west, the East- West 
street which passes in front of the White mosque and 
the South-North road which branches off from the 
south of the Jerusalem Jaffa road. A number of other 
routes may be added to these main roads by their 

4) Excavations and monuments of known date may help 
determine the extent of the city in various periods. To 
this may be added place names which may preserve the 
location of some now vanished features. For example 
the area known as al-Muristan (the hospital) and 
indicated on Mandate period maps may be identified 
with the hospital known to have existed in the 
fourteenth century (see Burgoyne 1983, 259). 

5) The layout of the early Islamic and medieval cities are 
likely to be different both in terms of size and 

Using these points as guidelines it is possible to attempt a 
reconstruction of the layout of the city. 

Early Islamic Period 

Two reconstructions of the early-Islamic city are 
proposed, one on the basis of an orthogonal layout and 
the other with a more organic form (see Fig. 60). Both 
reconstructions are based on the same basic principles 
which is that the lay out of the present town preserves 
elements of the original town plan. The northern limit of 
the town is the al-'Anaziyya cisterns and the southern 
limit of the town is marked by Route 40. The western 
limit of the town is approximately two hundred metres 
west of the White Mosque and is marked by the double 
walls encountered by Glick (2000) during his excavations 
in 1992 (No. 13 on Map). There are few indications about 
the eastern limit of the town although it is likely to extend 
at least up to the railway line. One of the main differences 
between the orthogonal and non-Orthogonal 
reconstructions is the importance of the Jaffa road. If the 
orthogonal model is preferred the Jaffa road is a later 
feature which marked a route between city gates after 
much of the earlier city had been destroyed (i.e. after 
1033 earthquake). 

Crusader and Ayyubid Period 

With the exception of the Crusader Church (and possibly 
the Greek Orthodox Church) there is very little within the 
town that can be dated to the Crusader period. However it 
is likely that the origins of the present day 'Old City* can 
be found in the Crusader settlement established in front of 
the castle in the early twelfth century. Unfortunately the 
Crusader castle was destroyed by Saladin in 1191 though 
some idea of its original position may be derived from an 
analysis of the contour plan of the old city (see above 
fortifications). It is noticeable that the suggested position 
of the Crusader castle lies on a similar alignment to the 
main axis of both the Greek Orthodox and the Crusader 
churches. In other words the area to the east of the 
suggested location of the castle contains at least two 
(three if the Armenian Church is included though this is 
probably of a later date) of the oldest Christian structures 
in the town in fairly close proximity. The fact that the 
Fransiscan convent is outside this area does not pose too 
much of a problem for, as Pringle (1998, II, 197-8) has 
shown, there is no evidence of a Fransiscan presence in 
Ramla before the late fourteenth century (i.e. during the 
Mamluk period). 

Little is known about the Ayyubid town and there is little 
that can with any certainty be dated to this period with the 
exception of the inscription built into the maqam of Nabi 
Salih in the north west corner of the White Mosque. 
Mayer (1959, 1 16-7 A) thought that this must have come 
from another mosque elsewhere in the town and building 
on this Pringle suggests that it was originally from the 
Crusader Church marking its conversion into a mosque. 
However there is no evidence that the inscription had 
been moved and the fact that Mujir al-Din seems to have 
seen it in the White Mosque in the late fifteenth century 
strengthens the belief that it referred to a partial 


Andrew Petersen 

rebuilding to (he White Mosque 6 . la any case this would 
fit better with die historical evidence which stales that 
after 1191 the town was under joint Crusader-Muslim 
control. It perhaps not too far fetched to suggest that the 
Crusaders retained control of their church and the 
surrounding area and the Muslims had control of the 
White Mosque and its neighbourhood. 

Mamluk and early Ottoman Periods 

The approximate size of the Mamluk town is much easier 
to define because of the buildings which are still standing 
and because it largely coincides with the limits of the 
present day 'Old City* (see Fig. 61). Confirmation for 
this assumption comes from the fact that medieval 
materia] is rare in excavations other than those within or 
on the edges of the 'Old City'. 

The northern limit of the town is marked by the 
Jerusalem-Jaffa road, the ground level to the south being 
markedly higher than that to the north. The western limit 
is marked by the north south road (formerly known as 
Sharia' Deir al-Latin/ Street of the Latin Church) linking 
the Jaffa road to Route 40. Again the ground level to the 
west of the road is lower than that to the east. The 
southern boundary is more difficult to define precisely 
though on the assumption that certain buildings and 
places (eg. animal markets, ' cemeteries and the large 
Khan al-Idham) are more likely to be outside the walls 
than inside an approximate boundary can be drawn. The 
eastern edge of the town is marked by another north- 
south road connecting the Jaffa road to Route 40. It will 
be noticed that the alignment of the orthogonal 
reconstruction of the early Islamic city is different from 
that of the medieval city. It is also noticeable that there 
was some settlement outside the main town during the 
Mamluk period thus medieval pottery production appears 
to have taken place outside the north wall (No28 on map) 
and there is also some settlement around the White 
Mosque (see maps) as indicated in the sixteenth century 
Ottoman records. 

The settlement around the WUtrfMaqpe hi interesting 
and requires some comment As Ma^k al-Dhi noted 
'...Of former constructions around the mosque mere only 
remains a quarter adjoining it in the norm side which is 
reduced to the state of a village. The city has thus become 
separated from the mosque (II 417-8)'. It may be that this 
quarter was a continuation of the settlement that bad 
existed around the White Mosque since early Islamic 
times. However it seems more likely that this settlement 
was a consequence of the renovation of the White 
Mosque by Sultan Baybars in the thirteenth century. A 
similar situation may be noted in Safed where the Red 
Mosque is located away from the main settlement and 
formed the nucleus of a quarter. Evidence that the 
construction of these mosques was intended to stimulate 
urban development in hitherto neglected areas can be 
found in the establishment of Baybars' Mosque, in Cairo. 
The mosque was built in the Husayniyya district of Cairo 
in an area which had previously been occupied by 
cemeteries and gardens. After the establishment of the 
mosque the area became the focus of settlement for 
refugees from the eastern Islamic lands (Maqrizi Khitat 
ed. edition. Maktabat al-Muthanna 2, 22) 7 . 


7 The fact thai the inscription appeals to have been seen by Mujir al-E 
escaped Mayer's notice thus he states ' The building for which ' 
inscription was originally destined cannot be determined; today it is i 
even known when it was placed in its present position' (19S9, 1 1 7), f 
also Creswell (1959. 2. 142-771 and Bloom (1982). 




1b the conclusion I would like to return to the three 
questions posed in the preface- 1) Was there a decline in 
the towns of Palestine under Muslim rule? 2) Did a 
specifically Islamic form of town develop? and 3) How 
can archaeology help in a discussion of urbanism? 

Decline under Muslim rule? 

The question of whether towns declined under Muslim 
nde is central to this thesis. Urban decline can be 
measured in a number of ways. The three most significant 
indicators are 1) the number of inhabited towns, 2) the 
urban population of a given area and 3) the physical 
condition of a town. 

1) The first question is apparently the easiest to assess 
based on the figures cited at the beginning of this thesis 
the number of towns in Palestine declined from more than 
forty at the end of the Roman period to six at the 
beginning of the Ottoman period. Whilst this certainly 
indicates a significant decline in urban sites it is not as 
ample as it first appears. Firsdy it should be noted that a 
number of the urban settlements listed by Jones can never 
have been much larger than villages and their inclusion in 
a list of urban sites should therefore be treated with some 
scepticism. For example he lists Gerar and Orda as towns 
even though there is little evidence that they ever 
functioned as more than estate centres. A second 
problem with Jones' list is that some of the formerly 
important towns were no longer urban settlements by 
time of the Muslim conquests in the seventh century such 
as Antipatris (Neidinger 1987). One is then left with a 
number of towns which appear to have been in decline 
around the time of the Islamic conquest though the causes 
of the decline may have originated much earlier (eg 
Avdat). Finally one is left with a number of towns which 
declined during the period of Muslim rule. These can be 
placed in two groups, those which declined within a 
hundred years of the Muslim conquest and those which 
disappeared between the eleventh and thirteenth 
centuries. The towns which declined within a hundred 
years of the Muslim conquest include cities such as 
Sepphoris and Dor/Tantura where evidence for their 
existence in the Byzantine period has only recently been 
demonstrated indicating that evidence for a prolonged 
existence under Muslim rule may yet be found. 

The second stage of decline, which appears to have begun 
io the late tenth century, can with some certainly be 
ascribed to the almost incessant warfare and uncertainties 
of the time. Palestine was not uniquely affected by this 
and there is considerable evidence for decline in the 

» Some caution should be expressed here as there are other sues which 

«* known arehaeologicany and appear to have the atmbutes of towns 
m they do not appear in the historical sources (eg Klurbat Futais). 

whole of Bilad al-Sham. For example Stefan Heideman 
has shown how the Numayrids used Raqqa as a nominal 
base though they remained nomadic (Heidermann 1999). 
It is probable that Raima fulfilled a similar function for 
the Jarrahids in the early eleventh century (1010-13 AD) 
(Gil 1992, 577, 383). It also seems likely that the 
populations of many of the other Palestinian towns 
declined during this period and although they remained 
nominally urban they were essentially village type 
settlements on the eve of the Crusader conquest. 

Despite this apparently disastrous situation more than 35 
settlements in Crusader period Palestine could be 
considered urban (see Pringle 1997,3 Fig.l). However it 
seems probable that some of these were little more than 
villages (eg Mirabel, al-Bira, al-Rarn,Bait Sunq, al- 
Qubaiba, Mi'iliya, Darum, Daburiyya, al-Zib, Qaqun, 
Qalansuwa) though the inhabitants had the status of 
burgesses. Even those sites which were ancient 
settlements seem to have become fairly small thus towns 
like Baysan and Tiberias contracted to a small core 
around the castle. 

The end of Crusader rule was in most cases accompanied 
by widespread destruction of defences which further 
reduced urban settlements, most famously the systemanc 
destruction of the coastal defences and ports of Ascalon, 
Jaffa, Arsuf, Caesarea, 'Allit, Haifa and Acre. This was 
undoubtedly the biggest blow to the urban network and 
resulted in the collapse of the economies of inland towns 
such as Baysan and Qaimun. This summary indicates that 
the decline in the number of towns took place in main 
two stages, the first immediately pre-ceeding the 
Crusader conquest and the second immediately after the 
end of Frankish rule. Although in both cases the area was 
under Muslim rule in each case the causes are a result of 
external factors that have nothing to do with Muslim 
approaches to urbanism. 

2) The second question, the urban population of a 
particular area is more difficult to assess given the nature 
of the evidence. Although we have fairly accurate 
historical records for the sixteenth century there is virtual 
no documentary records which allow one to make 
population estimates for earlier periods (with the possible 
exception of the Crusader period?). Unfortunately the 
archaeological record is also limited because in many 
cases we do not know the extent of a site during the 
period or if it was walled the percentage of the site which 
was inhabited at a particular time. Another problem is 
how we interpret archaeological evidence for example in 
seventh century Syria there is evidence for increasing 
subdivision of houses which may either be interpreted as 
a sign of decline in status/living conditions or perhaps as 
increasing population density. Even if it is possible to 
establish an estimate of particular urban population at one 
period of time the means for comparing this data with 


Andrew Petersen 

other data arrive at using different methods makes 
population comparisons extremely difficult. One further 
layer of complexity is that different populations/cultures 
may have different population densities. For example 
Redman (1986) discussing the Western Mediterranean 
uses a figure of 4.S persons per Muslim household and 
3.8 persons per household for Christian households. Of 
course using such figures in calculations pre-supposes a 
knowledge of the religious and ethnic composition of a 
town at a particular time. 

In view of the above difficulties the only quantitative 
method used is estimating the population from the urban 
area at a fixed coefficient of one person per 10m 2 (see 
Table 34). In the towns for which we have information 
there appears to have been a slight decline in urban size 
during the early Islamic period thus Jerusalem, Arsuf and 
Caesarea contracted to more or less their present size as 
indicated by the walled area. In some cases such as 
Tiberias there is indication of expansion from Byzantine 
times whilst at Ramla a substantial city was created 
presumably drawing at least some of its population from 
surrounding villages. As the inhabited areas of cities 
declined from the eleventh century inwards one would 
expect a decline in the urban population. Although there 
are a few cases of urban expansion such as Gaza or the 
new towns of Safad and Qaqun (also perhaps Majdal) 
overall there must have been a decline in the urban 
population under the Mamluks due to the destruction of 
the coastal cities. However, two considerations should be 
set beside this picture of demographic decline. The first is 
that the countryside of Palestine was considered an 
urbanised area in the medieval period (Lapidus 1969,67) 
and it is possible that the demarcation between town and 
countryside was not as severe as it may have been when 
towns were walled. The second consideration is that 
Cairo and Damascus developed as metropolitan centres 
possibly inhibiting the growth of other urban centres. 

3) The third question, the physical condition of towns is 
amenable to archaeological investigation although the 
question of decline or otherwise can be subjective. One of 
the prime indicators of whether a town is in decline is the 
extent to which it conforms to a town plan. It is generally 
assumed that there is a hierarchy of urban design with the 
Hippodamian grid plan at the top and meandering narrow 
lanes with cul*de sacs at the bottom. As indicated in the 
introduction the former is regarded as a product of 
Western civilization whilst the latter is regarded as 
typical of the Islamic world. 

The evidence from Palestine is hard to interpret partly 
because a large proportion of the coastal cities were 
destroyed and when excavated only small portions are 
available from which to extrapolate town plans. Ironically 
towns which still exist with considerable later occupation 
may provide more evidence of medieval towns than their 
abandoned counterparts due to the conservative nature of 
urban plans (see discussion of plan analysis in chapter 3). 

First of all it needs to be stated thai Roman/Byzantine 
towns were not always orthogonaly planned settlements 
and could be modified both by natural and earlier man- 
made features, For example the plan of Scythopolis is 
modified both by the natural topography and the tell 
which dominates the central area. Instead of a gird plan 
based on a cardo and decumanus there are two main 
streets which converge at a central area at the foot of Tell 
al-Husn. In other cases such as the towns of 'Isbaita or 
Uinm al-Jimal the settlements developed in an organic 
way apparently independent of any central planning 
principles. In these cases the absence of a grid plan 
reflects the fact that these towns were not developed by 
the government but were spontaneous creations 2 . In fact 
the number of orthogonally planned Roman settlements 
in Palestine is relatively few and appears to be confined 
to new settlements such as Caesarea, Neapolis and 
Tiberias. Archaeological excavations at all three sites 
have confirmed that they were originally laid out on a 
grid plan which appears to have been a determining factor 
in subsequent development. The resilience of this plan 
has been demonstrated at Neapolis where the Roman grid 
plan is still evident. Another possible example of an 
orthagonally planned Roman settlement is Jerusalem 
which was re-founded as Aelia Capitolina in 130 AD. 
The town plan of the new city consisted of a main street 
(cardo maximus) a secondary cardo and a decumanus. As 
with Nablus it is striking how much of this plan is 
preserved in the present layout of Jerusalem. 

Secondly it needs to be stated that many Islamic cities 
outside Palestine were built with orthogonal grid plans. 
The nearest and most clear example is the Umayyad city 
of ' Anjar in Lebanon which has a grid plan of almost 
military precision (Fig. 15, Plate 2). Although it is still in 
need of further excavation it is clear that the Abbasid city 
of Raqqa was also built to a grid plan. Later examples 
include the Seljuk city of Merv (Sultan Kala) founded in 
the late eleventh century (Fig. 23) (AD 1072-92), Quseir 
al-Seghir (Morocco) founded in 1184 and al-Qahira 
(Cairo) founded by the Fa timid s in AD 971. At Merv the 
original grid pattern of streets can still be distinguished in 
aerial photographs with the palace and later mausoleum 
of Sultan Sanjar at the centre (Plates 7-8). At Quseir al- 
Seghir the grid plan is visible in excavations though it 
was partially obscured by the later Portuguese town 
(Redman 1986). Interestingly there was a decline in the 
uniformity of the original twelfth century (Islamic period) 
plan in the Portuguese period. In particular the excavators 
state ' 64% of the domestic structures ... recorded from 
excavations had been sub-divided into smaller units 
during the Portuguese occupation, and in several cases 
open street or plaza space had been encroached upon by 
new buildings' (Redman 1986, 239). The evidence for al- 1 
Qahira as an orthogonal grid plan city has been presented 
by Rogers (1969) and Abu-Lughod (1971) though it 
should be pointed out that it was a palatine city not open 

- In the case of Sbaita the design of the city may have been the result of 1 
calculations of water tun-off and collection as indicated by the Urge ] 

cistern at the centre. 


The Towns of Palestine Under Muslim Rule 

to die general public. Other cities incorporated elements 
of grids in their planning thus the Umayyad citadel at 
Amman has a grid plan adapted to the topography of the 
site (Northedge 1992). Similarly the Abbasid capital of 
Samarra includes large areas of housing built to a grid 
plan (see for example the Turkish cantonments of al- 
Karkh in Northedge 1994 Fig 51). Baghdad, however was 
built on a circular plan with radiating streets arranged in 
two concentric rings with the imperial mosque and palace 
at the centre. 

As the majority of towns in Palestine were continuations 
of pre-Islamic settlements it is difficult to distinguish grid 
plans that can be dated to the Islamic period and those 
which survive from earlier times. For example it is not 
clear whether the layout of Umayyad Arsuf is a product 
of that period or whether it follows an earlier 
Roman/Byzantine layout. There are however a number of 
cases where it can be shown that the grid plan is a 
product of the Islamic period. The best known Islamic 
example is at Ayla/Aqaba which has a grid plan similar to 
that of 'Anjar though on a much reduced scale (Fig.31). 
Unfortunately very little is known of the layout of Ramla 
in the early Islamic period though the little information 
that we do have suggests that it was also built on a grid 
plan though not necessarily as rigid as that of 'Anjar. 
Some of the older towns have sections added in the early 
Islamic period which are built on a grid plan thus the area 
on top of Tell al Husn in Baysan was rebuilt on a grid 
plan in the Umayyad period. At Capernaum a new 
settlement built on a grid plan was established to the east 
in the Umayyad period (Whitcomb 1994, 25; Tzaferis 
1989). If one accept's Harrison's argument Tiberias also 
had a new grid plan development in the Umayyad period. 
The evidence for Islamic grid planning is even more clear 
at Caesarea where a new quarter with a new grid plan was 
built in the Fatimid period (Raban 1998, 64-5). It is also 
likely that the new town built by the Fatimids at Haifa 
was laid out on a grid plan though there is no 
archaeological evidence of this. The limited information 
we have for new urban settlement in the medieval period 
suggests that grid plans were also used during this period 
thus the urban plan of Majdal (near Ascalon) appears to 
be based on a grid (Fig. 48). 

However not all Islamic towns were based on a grid plan 
and there is evidence for other forms of urban planning. 
For example the earliest Muslim cities Kufa, Basra and 
Fustat were built on a system of tribal allocations of land 
{khitat) within the defined area of the city (see Fig. 16). 
Due to limited archaeological evidence it is not clear how 
this was expressed in a physical form. Akbar (1989) 
argues that the tribal allocations of land were themselves 
sub-divided into successively smaller units down to 
individual family plots. As each of these plots was 
determined by negotiation with competing groups Akbar 
suggests that the boundaries will have been irregular 
rather than fixed straight lines. Whilst Akbar's specific 
points on the nature of the ikhtitat (v. marking out) may 
be correct his conclusion that each khatta is an irregularly 
shaped unit is based on supposition rather than any 

evidence either physical or literary. (Contemporary 
practice in Arab countries such as Oman suggests that 
people tend to mark out rectangular or orthogonal units 
rather than amorphous areas). In any case descriptions of 
the early Muslim towns suggests that there were strong 
elements of central planning. For example Tabari 
describes the planning process at Kufa which had as its 
centra] element a square containing the mosque 
surrounded by a ditch from which five roads were marked 
to the north, four to the south (qibla) and three on the 
west and east sides (Fig. 16). The size of the roads was 
carefully regulated thus the main roads were forty cubits 
wide, the secondary roads thirty cubits, lesser roads 
twenty and the lanes seven cubits wide (Tabari ed.Guidi 
4: 44; for a discussion of the origins of Kufa see Djait 
1986). Whilst the individual units between the roads may 
not have been uniform in size there is no reason for them 
to be entirely irregular as Akbar suggests. It seems 
unlikely that Ramla, the only generally recognized new 
town in Palestine, was laid out in this way though 
elements of this system could have been employed for 
example the allocation of areas to different groups. The 
only other possible examples of this form of planning in 
Palestine may have been the camps at Jabiyya and 
Nicopolis-Emmaus though it is notable that neither of 
these later developed into towns. 

One other form of planning is represented by Safed which 
was made into a regional capital under the Mamluks. 
Here the plan is dominated the local topography so that a 
concentric system of streets developed around the site of 
the castle following the natural contours (Fig.43). At 
Gaza the Mamluk and early Ottoman town developed 
outside the area of the Roman/Byzantine city and the 
main road (Via Maris) between Cairo and Damascus 
became the principal planning element (Fig. 22). A 
similar situation has been observed in sixteenth century 
Ottoman Damascus where Darwisiya Street as the 
starting point of the Hajj became the principal focus of 
urban development (Weber 1997-8, 439-442; Roujon and 
Vilan 1997 and my review Petersen 2000). 

Did the towns of Palestine become Islamic? 

The extent to which the towns of Palestine became 
Muslim is important not only for its own sake but also as 
a test case for defining what is meant by an Islamic city. 
As indicated in chapter 2 the concept of an Islamic or 
Muslim city is something which has aroused considerable 
debate ranging from the stereotype Islamic city first 
postulated by Marcais to the assertion by Lapidus that 
towns do not exist in the Islamic world other than as large 

The source of the problem is in trying to amalgamate two 
different concepts, Islam and city/town into a single 
definition. Thus the characteristics which define 
Damascus as a city are not the same as those which make 
it Muslim. Therefore two different sets of characteristics 
are needed, one defining its essential Muslim features and 
the other describing the necessary urban features. 


Andrew Petersen 

There are two main characteristics one would expect of a 
Muslim town or city. The first is mat the majority of the 
population should be Muslim. For most of the period 
under consideration the proportion of Muslims in a given 
town is pure guess work. This is particularly the case for 
the early Islamic period although it appears that the 
numbers of Christians and Jews in a given city were 
considerable and may often have exceeded the number of 
Muslims. The only really reliable information comes 
from the early Ottoman period when for the first time 
there is quantifiable demographic data (see Appendix! ). 

The second characteristic of an Islamic city is that it 
should be perceived to be of some importance in the 
Muslim consciousness by, for example, having a history 
of religious scholarship. Thus, Muslim historians and 
geographers describing a town will give lists of Muslim 
notables who lived there. For example Bradford has 
recently been described as a Muslim city (Islamabad) 
because it was the home of a prominent Muslim mystic 
(Lewis 2002, 1). 

Neither of these criteria will necessarily have any impact 
on the layout or physical appearance of the city (although 
one would generally expect at least one mosque and a 
bathhouse) and are more readily identifiable through 
historical sources rather than archaeological 
documentation. However it is worth looking at physical 
aspects of the Palestinian towns under Muslim rule to see 
what influences or common features are apparent. I have 
divided this section into two parts, religious and secular, 
though the distinctions between these elements is not 
always as clear as one might expect. 

Religious Structures 


The most obvious change to the appearance of cities was 
the mosque. For example in 951 AD al-Istakhri wrote that 
in the ninth century there were twenty mosques in 
Palestine compared with sixty churches (al-Istakhri ed de 
Goeje, 58). However our knowledge of early mosques in 
Palestine is very limited and only a few examples are 
known (Schick 1995. 140-1). The few mosques for which 
archaeological /physical evidence survives are small 
structures evidently only designed to accommodate a 
small population of Muslim believers (see for example 
mosque at Sbaita). Another interesting observation is that 
many of the early mosques known in Palestine are in the 
countryside thus although we tend to associate Islam with 
cities the physical evidence gives a clear indication that 
there was a significant Muslim population outside the 
cities. The fact that mosques have not been identified in 
towns where we know there was a Muslim presence may 
indicate that Muslims were using spaces to pray that were 
either not specifically Muslim or perhaps were not 
archaeologically recognisable as such 3 . We do have some 

archaeological evidence for re-use of churches as 
mosques thus King identified two churches in northern 
Jordan which had been converted for Muslim use by 
walling up the apses ' to negate the Christian direction of 
prayer that the apses indicated' (King 1983, 134). 
However it seems likely that in the majority of cases use 
of an area as a mosque is archaeologically invisible and 
certainly would not have made an impact on the visual 
appearance of a town or city. One of the problems 
identifying early mosques is that those built before 707-9 
were not provided with concave mihrabs and thus there 
was little to distinguish them from secular structures 4 . In 
this context it is interesting to note that the early mosque 
(pre-750 AD) at Ayla/Aqaba has yet to be identified 
(Whitcomb 1997-8, 18). 

There is slightly more evidence for mosques- in the 
Abbasid and Fatimid periods (mid- eighth to eleventh 
centuries) although this is mostly documentary in form 
rather than archaeological. The evidence we do have 
indicates that congregational mosques were located in 
prominent positions in most of the main towns. This 
usually meant the main market. For example 
Muqaddasi's (ed. de Goeje 161) description of Tiberias 
includes a reference to the mosque that stood in the 
market place which had a courtyard paved with pebbles 
and was supported by composite stone columns. 
Unfortunately the location of the mosque is not known 
though it is tempting to speculate that it may have 
occupied the site of the Dhahir al-'Umar mosque built in 
the eighteenth century (for a discussion of this mosque 
see Bernie et al 1992). Baysan also had a mosque located 
in the market place though it is not clear whether this is to 
be identified with the small structure found during recent 
excavations or the Jami al-'Arbain which was rebuilt in 
the nineteenth century (Hate 16). Muqaddasi indicates 
that the Friday mosque in Ascalon was located in the 
cotton market though the only mosque remains identified 
at the site belong to a building converted from a Greek 
Orthodox sometime in the tenth century (Stager 1991, 
62) $ . 

In other cases the congregational mosque was located in 
an elevated place and clearly had a visual impact on the 
urban skyline. Thus Nasir-i-Khusraw's (ed Scheffer, 62) 
description of the Caesarea mosque in 1047 indicates that 
it overlooked the sea. 

1 cf. Insoll describing the Cambridge mosque 'How would the 

arcbacologiat defino this otniolur* in the form it is today ">fV> yc*« 

hence? ...levelled to its foundations... only an empty space with an cast 
west orientation would remain... differentiating it little from any other 
hall. In this respect, it provides a sobering reminder of what can dude 
the archaeologist' (1999, 58). 

4 The first concave irrihrab was introduced when al-Walid rebuilt the 
mosque of Medina in 707-9. Confirmatioo of the absence of concave 
mihrabs in early mosques is provided by the excavation of the mosque 
at Wash where the earliest phase of the mosque had no mihrab 
(Creswell 1989. 40-1 & 46). 

5 Stager (1991. 62, n.38) identifies this building as St.Mary me Green 
based on very little evidence. However, it is known that a number of 
mosques were converted into churches after the city was occupied by 
the Crusaders CPrinele 1993.63-4 no. 14 and 68 no. 15). 


The Towns of Palestine Under Muslim Rule 

Remains of this mosque have recently been identified by 
Pringle (1993-1, 170-1), confirming that it had a central 
elevated location in the city. Similarly we also know that 
Jaffa had a mosque in a prominent position overlooking 
die sea (Muqaddasi ed. de Goeje 174). MuqaddasMso 
informs us that Arsuf had a congregationaTinosque whicrK 
contained a minbar originally made for the mosque in 
Ramie but was considered too small. / 

The most noticeable difference/ between the Islamic 
period before the Crusades and the period following is an 
increase in the number of mosques in towjjs_and_cities 
(see Tables 2 and 3). This is a feature^rnat is not um 

fed in Syria, Egypt 

'ars to have /begun as 

:uqaddasi (edide Goeje 

iad two mosques, the 

mosque. Under the 

as -their adherence to 

ieV only allowed—tifie 

area (Behrcns- 

ee as Cairo 

to Palestine and has also been 
and elsewhere. This process a 
e»ly as the tenth century, thus 
161) mentions that Tiberias 
mosque in the market and the J 
Ayyubids this process was ch 
die Shaft rite meant that 
Congregational mosque in an 
Abouseif 19891 1,15). Thus even^city^ 
only had one congregational mosaue (the 
*Amr at Fustat). Under the Marmu^howexerr^he 
multiplication of mosques resumed and different mosques 
were established for each area of a town whilst khanqas 
and madrassas also took on the function of Friday 
mosques (Behrens-Abouseif 1989, 15). For example 
Mamluk Gaza had more than thirty-five mosques of 
which at least four were congregational mosques 
(jwamiXFig.22)(Sadek 1991,46-219 & 294-323). In this 
context the number of mosques is some indication of the 
Muslim population of a town. Thus towns with only one 
congregational mosque such as Yibna were presumably 
less populous than those with several such as Ramla 
which had ten jawami of which at least four were 
congregational mosques (Fig. 61) (Petersen 1995, 78). 

I From the above discussion it is clear that although the 
city centres contained mosques in the pre-Crusader period 
the diffusion of mosques into the city fabric did not occur 
anal the Mamluk period when, according Behrens- 
Abouseif, each quarter and even each street had its own 
[Friday Mosque] (Behrens-Abouseif 1989, 15). 


Concomitant with this proliferation in the number of 
mosques there were also developments in their 
jrchitectural appearance most of which are beyond the 
scope of this thesis. However a development of primary 
importance to the visual appearance of mosques and 
hence their role in the urban fabric was the development 
of the minaret. 

Minarets are now regarded as a defining feature of 
Islamic cities though their origins are relatively late. 
Although the mosques of Damascus, Fustat and Medina 
had towers during the Umayyad period it is now 
generally agreed that the minaret was an introduction of 
be Abbasid period (750 AD). However the Fatimids did 

not accept this symbol of Abbasid authority and early 
Fatimid mosques did not have minarets 6 . The importance 
of this for Palestine is that the appearance of towns in the 
Mamluk era is likely to have been very different from the 
same towns before the twelfth century. The proliferation 
of minarets after the Muslim re-conquest of Palestine 
probably part of a programme of visually marking 
Muslim space 7 . It is noticeable that during this later 
period (hiostly Mamluk) religious buildings other than 
mosques hadvattached minarets indicating their role of 
identifying Muslim buildings. 

The propaganda value of minarets can most clearly be 
en in the minareJof the White mosque in Ramla which 
was rebuilt in 1307. The cost of rebuilding the minaret 
muskhave been eWmous and it appears to have been 
responsible for / extensive stone robbing of earlier 
structures in th/ vicinity of the mosque. However the 
height/of the minaret ( 30 metres) meant it was visible 
from iflie sea over 15 kilometres distant (Heyd 1956, 208). 
EWarchitecture of the building so impressed European 
ravfeUers /that they assumed it was a Crusader 
construction. Minarets were also\built at the corners of 
\Haram in Jerusalem and th&rtlaram in Hebron to 
Hcate that these shrines were now under Muslim 
control. \yr 


Whilst mosques are an indication of the presence of a 
Muslim population in a town the construction of shrines 
is a way of establishing a Muslim past thereby enhancing 
the legitimacy and authority of the religion (see for 
example Jalabert 2002 who describes the growth in the 
number of Muslim shrines in Damascus). The importance 
attached to the establishment of Muslim shrines can be 
seen by the construction of the Dome of the Rock as early 
as 691 giving a Muslim dimension to a city with deep 
religious significance to the two rival faiths of 
Christianity and Judaism. However in the other cities of 
Palestine there were few notable Muslim shrines 
established during the early Islamic period despite the 
fact that the Umayyads propagated hadiths sanctifying 
the various towns of Palestine (Khamis 20001, 174 notes 
50-52 and Gill 1992, 10-1). Even Hebron, the burial place 
of Abraham, the father of the religion, seems to have 
attracted little attention as a Muslim shrine (cf. Le 
Strange 1890, 151). 

The real growth in the number of Muslim shines in 
Palestine appears to be a product of the post Crusader 
period and may be seen as part of a spiritual re-conquest 
and a reaction to the large number of Christian shrines 
which had developed during the years of Crusader 
control. Jerusalem, of course was of particular importance 

6 For a full discussion of the origin of minarets see Bloom (1989) and 
for a contrary view see Hiltenbcand( 1994, 129-171 esppp.137-8). 
' cf C.Hillenbrand 1999, 129 These monuments [minarets built by Nur 
al-Din]. towering over cities and fortresses, had a strong propoganda 
message testifying to the triumph of Islam". 


Andrew Petersen 

daring Ibe period of the counter-Crusade (cf. C. 
Hillenbrand 1999, 150-161) and during the Mamluk 
period developed an elaborate network of shrines in 
addition to the Dome of the Rock. Other cities which 
were previously of little religious significance became 
populated with Muslim shrines thus Ibn Battutah who 
visited Ramla in 1355 mentions the shrines of more than 
three hundred prophets in Ramla (cf LeStrange 1890, 
150). Despite the fact that Ramla had suffered 
considerable decline in both its urban area and its secular 
importance it had acquired significant religious 
significance as a symbol of former Muslim grandeur and 
as a centre of Muslim culture. Although Ibn Battutah' s 
description of more than 300 shrines may be exaggerated 
the number of extant shrines in the city clearly indicates 
its religious significance in the post Crusader period. 
Although Muslim shrines were not an exclusively urban 
phenomenon (they are found in many parts of the 
Palestinian countryside) it is significant that during this 
period all the towns of Palestine developed Muslim 
shrines. Even newly established towns quickly 
established Muslim shrines thus in Safed the Mamluks 
established a shrine known as Mugharrat Banat Ya'qub 
(The cave of the daughters of Jacob) which contained a 
shrine, a mosque and the tombs of Mamluk governors of 
the town. 

The role of shrines as a means of Islamicizing urban areas 
did not stop with the transfer to Ottoman rule in the 
sixteenth century and according to Layish (1987, 69) and 
Cohen (1978, 32-3) it appears to have intensified. Thus in 
the early years of Sulay man's rule Christians were 
gradually moved away from the area of David's tomb 
until 1549 when the Christians were finally expelled and 
the tomb became the centre of a Sufi zflwiya (see also 
Ozaslan 1999 where he describes how the development 
of the shrine of Ayyub al-Ansari was part of a process of 
converting Constantinople into a Muslim city). 

Secular Buildings 


Although palaces are often regarded as one of the 

principal forms of Islamic architecture only three 

examples survive in Palestine and of these only one, that 

of Jerusalem, is located in an urban context. Whilst it 

might be argued that the other two palaces Khirbat al- 

Mafjar and Khirbat al-Minya were built as the nuclei of 

proto-urban foundations in reality neither can be said to 

have been part of the urban fabric. In addition to 

Jerusalem we know of two other early Islamic urban 

palaces from literary sources, the palace at Acre and the 

Dar al-'Imara at Ramla. The Umayyad palace at Acre 

was built by the governor of al-Urdunn province Ishaq 

ibn Qabisa during the reign of Hisham and was decorated 

with a glass mosaic inscription (Khamis 2001, 170). No 

trace of the palace has survived nor do we know anything 

of its location. Although it is known that Ramla had a 

governor's palace or Dar al-'Imara the location of this 

building has not been identified though it seems 

reasonable to assume mat k-inr*e«i an* probably 
behind, the White Mosque 1 . U afo ft u aa ter y this area is 
now a graveyard and is off Units to archaeological 
excavation (the nature of the ground surface also makes 
geophysical prospect ion impracticable). However 
surface finds within the graveyard including large 
fragments of marble, glass mosaic tesserae and early 
Islamic ceramics lends support to the theory that the 
palace was located here. 

In the period following the Crusades the citadel appears 
to have been replaced by the palace as the administrative 
centre of urban life (see for example Merv Fig. 23). The 
main difference between the palace and the citadel is the 
latter's emphasis on fortification. Examples of towns with 
citadels in the medieval Islamic period include Safed, 
Baysan, Jerusalem, Qaqun and 'Aqaba/Ayla. The one 
surviving example of a palace which is not fortified is the 
Governors* palace in Gaza (Sadek 1991 , 268-82). 

Administrative Buildings 

With the exception of palaces very few secular non- 
domestic buildings have been identified from the early 
Islamic period. There have been some attempts to identify 
administrative components of early Islamic cities such as 
Whitcomb's discussion of the diwan (Whitcomb 2000) 
though in general little is known about the archaeology of 
such buildings. In any case it is likely that the architecture 
of administrative buildings may not have differed much 
from the more expensive domestic buildings and 
therefore they would be difficult to distinguish one from 
the other. 

There is, however, a group of buildings which are fairly 
well represented in the archaeological record which may 
have some administrative functions. These are courtyard i 
buildings with mosaic paved rooms. An example of such 
a building, known as the House of the Mosaics, has bees 
described by Pentz (1997. 96-7) at Hama and has! 
tentatively been identified as an Umayyad reception 
building. Although this building appears to have been] 
built before the Arab conquests it was extensively! 
refurbished (including figural stucco and frescoes) durur 
the Umayyad period. Buildings of a similar tyy 
decorated with mosaics have been identified at a numb 
of other sites in Palestine including Bir Saba, Bay 
Ramla and it is tempting to see them fulfilling sc 
official function. Significandy none of these towns 
any other remains which could be identified as officii 
buildings from this period. The building at Bir Saba ! 
particularly interesting because of its central location nei 
to the bath house which was probably still in use (cJ 
Whitcomb 2000, Rg.l Model for early Islanr 
development of Ayla where bathhouse is located next 
the palace.). In view of the dispersed nature of r " 
Islamic Bir Saba the presence of a bathouse 

• It is for example known that in the summer of 902 AD the 
mahdi and his son al Qa-'im stood on the roof of ihe governor's I 
in Ramla to watch falling stars (Gill 1992, 466 n.8l). 


'mansion 1 at the centre gives more support to its 
identification as an urban centre. 

At Baysan there appears to be a similar spatial 
relationship between a mosaic building with hypocausts 
(cut by the moat of the Crusader citadel) and a high status 
building also with mosaics located near the later Ottoman 
serai. A number of other early Islamic buildings 
decorated with mosaics were uncovered further east 
though their location suggests that they may have been 
•luxurious residential dwellings' rather than 
administrative buildings. 

Apart from the Dar a) irnara, which has not been found, 
the remains of two buildings with mosaics have been 
located in Ramla. It is possible that either or both of these 
buildings could have served administrative functions as 
both are located within a few hundred metres of the 
White Mosque. 


As indicated in the introduction bath houses have become 
almost synonymous with the idea of Islamic urbanism. 
Although Classical and Byzantine cities had bathhouses, 
their general absence in the Christian Western Europe has 
meant that in the medieval and later periods they are 
regarded as an almost exclusively Muslim phenomenon. 
The fact that Crusader cities such as 'Audit were 
equipped with bathhouses may be an indication of 
Muslim influence rather than an aspect of western 

It is notable that bathhouses are associated with most of 
the Umayyad palaces and the association between rulers 
and bath houses, later became a factor in most Islamic 
cities. The fact that bathhouses are extremely rare in non- 
urban environments further strengthens their credentials 
as an indicator of urban status. 


Hie possession of town walls has often been regarded as 
an indication of urban status although they are neither 
accessary nor sufficient as there have always been towns 
without walls and walled villages. Nevertheless town 
vails are often an important feature of pre-modera towns 
providing status and demarcation of the urban boundary 
as well as their more obvious defensive function. 

On the eve of Islam several towns were enclosed with 
vails whilst others were apparently undefended. Towns 
which are known to have had walls in the Byzantine 
period include Gaza, Ascalon, Caesarea, Scythopolis, 
Jerusalem, Ayla/Aqaba and Tiberias. Those without walls 
include Beersheba, Lydda and Nazareth. Many of the 
walls appear to have been fairly flimsy thus the wall 
around Caesarea was a low built on sand dunes whilst the 
I walls of Gaza were rapidly strengthened before the first 
I Muslim attacks (Kaegi 1992). 

The Towns of Palestine Under Muslim Rule 

During the early Islamic period the main focus of urban 
fortification was the coastal towns which were given the 
status of ribatat (frontier towns) and were often referred 
to as fortresses rather than towns. Both Caesarea and 
Arsuf were enclosed by walls in this period. Arsuf 
appears to have been unwalled until the Umayyad period 
when the first fortifications were built. At Caesarea the 
Fatimid period walls covered a smaller area than the 
earlier Byzantine walls but were better built. In some 
cases fortifications took other forms thus Minat Isdud had 
a fortress and a number of watchtowers built in the 
Fatimid period. The situation inland is less clear though 
in general it appears that Byzantine walls continued to be 
maintained though at Jerusalem there was a reduction of 
the walled area to more or less the present wall line. In 
addition to walls enclosing whole towns there are a 
number of cases where part of cities were contained 
within walls thus both Baysan and Aqaba/Ayla (possibly 
also Tiberias) had separate walled sections for the 
Muslim community. 

Ramla, the only new town created in the Umayyad 
period, is generally assumed to have been enclosed by 
walls though the early descriptions refer to gates rather 
than walls and the first description of the walls dates from 
the eleventh century. It is possible that the city was 
initially unwalled and one recalls the fact that town walls 
were not a feature of the first Islamic cities thus neither 
Basra, Kufa nor Fustat were enclosed by walls and only 
marked by ditches. On the other hand Wasit, which was 
founded by the Umayyads at the beginning of the eighth 
century (and therefore roughly contemporary with 
Ramla) was enclosed by a defensive system which 
included two ditches and a curtain wall (Yakut ed. 
Wustenfels IV, 682^). The difference is that the early 
amsar were built when Islam was in its first wave of 
expansion whereas Wasit was built to control the 
populations of Basra and Kufa. It is not clear where 
Ramla fits in as it appears to have been primarily a 
civilian settlement though the recent discovery of a 
section of double wall suggests that it was fortified from 
the beginning. 

Unfortunately very few of the early Islamic fortifications 
have survived despite the fact that they were utilised by 
the Crusaders. The reason for this is of course the 
destruction during the Crusader wars and subsequent 
demolition under the Mamluks. The only known 
examples of medieval Islamic city walls in the area are 
the Fatimid walls at Ascalon and the Ayyubid walls of 
Jerusalem. Unfortunately is difficult to identify the 
Fatimid components of the Ascalon walls and the walls 
of Jerusalem erected during the reign of al-Mu'azzam 
Isa were subsequently destroyed by him . Under the 
Mamluks none of the Palestinian towns were fortified 
with walls though they were often protected by citadels. 
Usually the citadels were located within the city though 

' The policy of leaving Jerusalem un-walkd to prevent the capture and 
subsequent use as a fortifications is a policy initiated by al-Mu'azzam 

'Isa and later adapt*"! rty the Mamluk rulers. 


Andrew Petersen 

occasionally as at 'Ajlun the citadel was located at some 
distance from the town. 

The rebuilding of Jerusalem's walls under the Ottomans 
was significant for a number of reasons. Firstly it 
signified a reversal of the policy started by al-Mu'azzam 
*Isa in the thirteenth century indicating that the new rulers 
were confident of their control. Secondly they were an 
advertisement for Ottoman rule signifying a new care for 
the area. Thirdly the walls had the practical role of 
defending against Bedouin attacks and as such were part 
of a strategy which also saw the construction of fortresses 
at Bayt Jibrin, Hebron, Ras al-'Ayn, Qal'at Burak and 


Most pre-modern towns had suburbs which could either 
be walled or un-walled. There are no examples of walled 
suburbs that have survived from Palestine though 
examples form elsewhere might include the two rabads 
(suburbs) to the north and south of Sultan Kala in Merv 
were enclosed within walls. 

It is generally assumed that suburbs developed to house 
excess population that could not be accommodated within 
the walled area of a city due to lack of space. However 
there are many cases where there are empty intra-mural 
areas whilst suburbs developed outside. One of the 
clearest examples is the ancient city of Merv (Gyaur 
Kala) where the occupied areas within the walls survive 
as a large irregular shaped tell with unoccupied corners 
yet the adjacent un-walled area to the west (later to 
become Sultan Kala) developed as a suburb from the 
eighth to the eleventh centuries. Within the Palestine the 
most obvious example is Jerusalem which even today has 
areas within the walls that are undeveloped (e.g. large 
parts of the Armenian Quarter in the south-west and parts 
of the Muslim quarter in the North east) and extensive 
suburban villages. 

An alternative proposition is that suburbs developed to 
house those who were excluded from the town. An 
example from medieval Britain is the town of 
Havefordwest where the Welsh were excluded form the 
walled town and formed their own suburb (Prendegast) to 
the north of the town (Lilley 2000). A similar situation 
may have existed in Bilad al-Sham in the late Classical 
period thus a number of cities such as Hama and Aleppo 
had extra mural areas originally occupied by Bedouin 
(sing. al-Hadir) (Pentz 1997). According to Sauvaget 
these places subsequently became the areas favoured for 
settlement by the Muslim Arab troops ( Sauvaget 1941, 
63). Unfortunately it has not been possible to identify 
suburbs of this type in Palestine though it is noticeable 
that in fourteenth century Hama this became the largest 
part of the town (Pentz 1997, 96). 

A related phenomenon is where a new specifically 
Islamic quarter is annexed to a pre-existing town. 
Examples from elsewhere in the Islamic world include 

the misr of Mawsil (Mosul) built oa die east bank of the 
Tigris opposite the ancient city of Nineveh ('Athima 
1986, 191-2) or the city of al-Rafiqa built as a suburb of 
the classical city of Nicephorium (Northedge 1994). In 
each of these cases it is debatable whether the new 
quarter is a suburb of an old town or the main part of a 
new town. Examples from Palestine include the early 
Islamic misr at Ayia built next to the Byzantine walled 
town and putative misr at Tiberias built to the north of the 
main Romano-Byzantine town. At Baysan the problem 
becomes more complex when a walled Islamic residential 
compound is developed within the city walls leading to 
the paradox of an intramural suburb. 

It could also be argued that Lydda became a suburb of 
Ramla after the foundation of the latter though this is 
unlikely due to the fact that each settlement retained its 
separate spatial identity. However archaeological 
excavations have certainly identified early Islamic 
suburban settlements at Ramla (see for example Sion 
2000). The contraction of the city under the Crusaders 
meant that the Mamluk city became separated from the 
area of the White Mosque which then took on the 
character of a suburb of the later medieval city. However 
the clearest example of Mamluk suburban development 
can be seen at Gaza where the centre of the town wag 
located on the tell and new developments were built 
below to the south on an area bordering the Cairo- 
Damascus road. 

In towns where there were apparently no walls such at 
Beersheba the demarcation between the town and 
suburban developments is sometimes difficult to 
distinguish even though a core area can be recognised. A 
related problem is distinguishing between suburban 
developments and neighbouring villages, for example at j 
Ayla/Aqaba there are a large number of related sites 
stretching over an area of several kilometres. Although 
these settlements are not contiguous with each other or 
the main town they are clearly dependant on Aqaba/Ayla. 
In both these cases we are dealing with a dispersed oasis 
type settlement which clearly has an urban character even 
though individual units are separated from one another 
(The recognition of this form of settlement as urban was 
first made by Lapidus (1969, 68) in relation to Iran when 
he states 'whole regions may be imagined as composite 
'cities' in which the population was divided into non-' 
contiguous spatially isolated settlements). 

What is the role of archaeology? 

It can be seen from the previous chapters that the' 
archaeological evidence for towns in the Muslim period j 
is very patchy and depends on having appropriate 
historical information as well as comparative material 
from elsewhere. However, in some places, archaeology 
provides the only evidence thus there is virtually no 
mention of Beersheba in the historical sources yet 
excavations indicate a considerable sized settlement in 
the Umayyad period. Where the opposite applies and 
there is historical evidence for settlement but no 


The Towns of Palestine Under Muslim Ride 

archaeological remains, as is the case with Sepphoris, it 
can be assumed that either the appropriate areas have not 
been investigated or that the interpretation of remains 
needs refinement. In the case of Sepphoris the 
archaeologists admit that the Byzantine area has only 
recently been identified and it is not unlikely that an early 
Islamic phase might be identified in the future 
(particularly since some of the specialist reports refer to 
early Islamic and Mamluk period material). 

There may also be practical problems of identifying 
Islamic-period material, thus the upper layers of a site 
will often be removed mechanically meaning that later 
remains are artificially truncated. Another problem is that 
a large number of buildings, particularly on the coast 
were huilt of mud brick yet there are few published 
examples of mudbrick structures dating to the Islamic 
period. It is for example noticeable that at Ramla only the 
stone foundations of walls were found. Another 
consideration which should be borne in mind, particularly 
when considering the old classical cities, is that many 
structures were continuously inhabited and therefore 
transition to a later Islamic phase may become 
archaeologically invisible 10 . 

Another feature of archaeological evidence which is 
worth discussing is the differing excavation strategies. 
Three strategies are used for urban sites these are 
research, clearance and rescue excavations. In general 
research and clearance excavations are concerned with 
sites that are no longer inhabited whilst rescue 
excavations generally take place in built up areas. The 
advantages of research and clearance excavations such as 
those carried out at Baysan is that large areas are 
excavated and specific periods or features are studied in 
detail. The disadvantage of such excavations is that 
certain periods are preferred over others (generally 
Classical period) and that there is a tendency to 
concentrate on public buildings. Rescue excavations also 
have their disadvantages such as inadequate publication 
and synthesis and a tendency for features to be poorly 
understood. However there are advantages to rescue 
excavations for considering the Islamic period of a city. 
The first of these is that by their nature rescue digs are 
aot concerned with specific periods and therefore will 
lend to record all information regardless of its date. 
Secondly rescue excavations are essentially random in 
Ihcir selection of locations thus different parts of a city 
I will be identified instead of a concentration on central 
ipobUc buildings (cf. Redman (1986, 180-187 esp. 181) 
! who used random sampling to select excavation units and 

|* See for example Pentz's discussion of the change from Byzantine to 

rule in Hama To summarize, the character of the Arab 

I makes il understandable that there is only little archaeological 

Jewience of the take-over of Hama'. Later in the same chapter he gives 

details 'In Apamea ... during the early seventh century the 

(...underwent a kind of transformation, their halls were divided 

fo.... doors were blocked and badly built walls erected here and there. ... 

[lib teems not have happened at Kama, at least so far as can be 

from the archaeology, on the contrary it appears that 

were unaltered and left free of re-furbishments' (Pent* 


found that 3% of the site was occupied with public 
buildings rather than 26% using selected excavation 
units). The advantages of such random sampling are 
particularly apparent when looking at the excavation 
results from Beersheba, Eilat (for Ayla/Aqaba) and 


A decline in the cities of Palestine from the beginning of 
the Islamic period to the end of the sixteenth century is 
undeniable whether it is seen in terms of absolute 
numbers or population (the question of layout is more 
debatable and has not been proven). However this overall 
view masks the fact that the decline was patchy and took 
place in different places for different reasons. For 
example the decline of urban settlement in the Negev 
within the first four centuries of Islam is very noticeable 
even though the causes arc poorly understood. On the 
other hand the decline in coastal settlement was part of a 
deliberate policy which was a direct reaction to the 
Crusader conquests of the eleventh, twelfth and thirteenth 
centuries. In Eastern Galilee a number of factors 
including invasions by Khwarzmians, Crusaders and 
Mongols caused a disruption to the settlement pattern. 
What is clear from these examples is that there is no 
single cause for urban decline such as the advent of 

Absolute numbers are difficult to determine but the total 
population (urban and rural) at the end of the period (i.e. 
CI 6th) appears to have been close to the total carrying 
capacity of the land and not far off that achieved in the 
Byzantine period if one excludes the areas brought out of 
settled cultivation (e.g. Negev and the coast). This raises 
the question of whether the decline in urban population 
was really part of a long term process by which a greater 
proportion of the population were settled in villages. 

The Islamicization of towns and cities is a more complex 
phenomenon because it is a cultural phenomenon which 
is difficult to asses even in the modern world. However it 
is clear that the visibility of Islam increased significantly 
from the seventh to sixteenth centuries. Although the idea 
of a typical Muslim city has largely fallen out of favour 
(for reasons outlined in Chapter One) certain associations 
of buildings appear to be characteristic at different 
periods; for example in the early Islamic period the Great 
Mosque is often next to the governor's palace (e.g. Kufa, 
Caesarea?, Ramla?) or it is located in the main market 
(Ascalon, Tiberias, Baysan). During this early period a 
single congregational mosque was a sufficient indicator 
of an 'Islamic town' (i.e. within the Dar al-Islam) whilst 
the rest of the town may have differed little from that of 
the Byzantine era. In the medieval period the Great 
Mosque becomes the focus for other Muslim institutions 
including libraries, zjawiyas, khanqas, madrassas and 
mausolea, In addition smaller neighbourhood mosques 
developed to cater for different parts of the city. 

M «i!KW?^^V« "4JKMU ">lW 

The «cfaa«sk>ik*l study of Muslim cities is «tiU at an 
earty stage. Although significant work has been earned 
out (e.g. 'Aqaba, Keshan and 'Amman) much still needs 
to be done to elucidate the Islamic phases of urban sites 
in Bilad al-Sham and in particular Palestine. It is only 
when we have more and better quality data that we will 
be able to really challenge the underlying prejudices and 
assumptions which cloud our perception of the Muslim 
periods. There has already been considerable progress in 
modifying the view of primitive Arab tribesmen 
destroying the civilization of the Middle East (the Dome 
of the Rock on its own should challenge such 
assumptions). It is hoped that in this work I have been 
able to push the argument further and show that the 
decline and rise of cities is a complex process (involving 
movements of people, natural environment, culture, trade 
routes and politics) in which religion is one of a number 
of fiictors. This is not to diminish the role of religion but 
rather to suggest that it is a clothing of the city rather than 
die city itself. 

■■»■ aimipuEw ofc#' • 

The Towns of Palestine Under Muslim Rule 

TABLE 30 Size and Population estimates from Byzantine to Early Ottoman Times. 

Name of Site 


Size in hectares 
known from 

Population estimate 
from area of she at 
one person per Mr m 



Hz* in hectares 
estimated from 


Early isiamic- 

60 ha. 



Unit al-Oata' 


40 ha. 






134 ha. 







I Caesarea 


Bvzantine -Umawad 


80 ha. 
11.25 ha. 





2.1 ha. 

I Husa/Khalasa 
1 Sbaita/Shivta 




52.8 ha. 
11 ha. 









1 Nazareth 







Early Islamic 





Bvzantine -Fatimid 

4 ha. 
15-18 ha. 

12 ha. 
112.5 ha. 
124.5 ha. 
8 ha. 



24 ha. 


















2.7 ha. 
15. 15 ha. 
20 ha. 

■ Jsrusaiem 

■ RnMus 



■ Hamta 


Eartv Islamic-Fatimid 

Crusader- Ottoman 




Fatimid and Crusader 



Earty Islamic - 


o na, 

120 ha. 

86 ha. 

36 ha. 


51.5-85.5 ha. 

7 ha. 


9 ha. 
256 ha. 






» r- 


3815-5495 a 







46.70-130.7 ha. 
38. 15-54.95 ha. 
1, 15 ha. 

0.75 ha. 


33.75 ha. 


1415-3050 ■ 

14.15-30.5 ha. 

■ tesn^efoa 

Byzantine and Earty 



100-150 ha. 
18 ha. 

'iA ?C Ka 





Eartv Islamic 









£4. £9 na. 

36 ha. 

50 ha. 
50 ha. 
50 ha. 
9 ha. 




4505-11,120 fc 
4630-9655 8 
500-700 c 

45.05-111.2 ha. 
4630-96.55 ha. 
27.9 ha. 
5-7 ha. 
2.25 ha. 

References: A = Hfitteroth & Abdulfattah 1977, B = Cohen & Lewis 1977, C = Pringle 1997, 3 & 35-6 



Table 1 - Beersheba Excavations 









No. on 





Church (inc. 



Pottery & 










rooms with 








Areas A&B 

Jan- April 


Built tombs, 
house with 6 
rooms & 
pottery kiln 

Pottery & 



C5 m -6 W & 







Zone, Areas 


Jan- April 


60+ tombs 
& two large 

cross & 







Jan- April 


with 7 
rooms one 

with ligural 







as 12?) 


1313 0746 



2 room 
structure & 


C60 ,. 7U , 










Atrium of 


early Arab 




Central bus 

1987 & 


25 graves 











Walls, pits 














Ustinova & 



and glass 


Ustinova & 
1994, 157- 







Ustinova & 


tabun & 

Late Byz- 

Ustinova & 
1994, 158- 







Ustinova & 


Pottery & 


Ustinova & 
1994, 160 



Ramot Nof 




Ustinova & 



Late Byz- 

Ustinova & 
1994, 160 



Andrew Petersen 

Table 1 continued - Beersheba Excavations 







8 buildings 
silos and 







tools, iron 



blocks of 








Ustinova & 




Ustinova & 



Nahal Beqa' 










Katz 1993' 



Horvat Matar 

Dec 1990- 


Rosen & 

building & 



ii) C7* 

Rosen & 

20 | 







inc. tabun 


May 1998: 
Ilan 1980 




Sept 1992 

Fabian & 

(same as 4?) 





C7 ,h -8* 

Fabian & 
Rabin 1996 

18 |j 


Old Town 



Bath house 


Byz or 


1994: Abel 

9 1 


Ministry of 






Army camp 
with later 

Pottery & 








io A 


New Bedouin 

Dec 1996- 
Jan 1997 









13 J 


Civic centre 











Varga 2000 

14 1 


St. 130025- 








7 1 

Tftf Tbwm of Potato* Undtr Mattm Rule 

T«bto2-Btyi— /Drtfc 



Date of 












Telt al-Husn 
(Tell Beth 




Mosque & 












Nov. 1982 


3 buildings 

pottery & 



1983, 13- 



W. of theatre 



3 rooms 


Byz-early Islamic 

1984, 1 1 


Modem town 

Jan 1984 


Wall and 




C12" -13th j 


! 5 



Foerster & 




Foerster & 





Foerster & 

Flour mill 


Abbasid or later 

Foerster & 




I 7 



Foerster & 

Street of 







shops & 
portico with 



1990, 22: 
Tsafrir & 
1991, 126- 
8: Khamis 








Early Muslim 

1990, 27 






Walls & 



Middle Muslim 

fi.e, medieval] 






Rooms with 

earth floors 

lamps & 





N. of Temple 

Nov. 1988- 

Foerster & 

Houses or 


Abbasid & 



April 1989 



middle ages 




Nov. 1988- 

Foerster & 

i) buildings 


i) Umayyad- 


April 1989 


in front of 



ii) Ayyubid- 



H j 



Valley Street 

Nov. 1988- 

Foerster & 



Muslim period 


April 1989 



[post Umayyad & 



Andrew Petersen 

Table 2 continued - Baysan Escalations 

#< — ** ^ \ 



S. of Temple 

Nov. 1988- 
April 1989 

Foerster & 

i) industrial 
ii) mosque 
& other 


) Byz-Umayyad 

i) Abbaaid 1 

Foerster 126: 
Foerster & 
Tsafrir 1988, 


Silvan us 


Foerster & 

i) houses ii) 
flour mill 


i) Abbasid 
ii) Mamluk 

Foerster 128 



1988 & 

Bar Nathan 
& Mazor 




Bar Nathan & 
Mazor 1992, 
36-7: Mazor 
1990. 29-30 





Foerster & 





Abbasid or later 

Foerster j& 
Tsafrir 1990, 


N.E. of 




Bar Nathan 
& Mazor 




Mazor & Bar 
Nathan 1992, 


E. Bath bouse 


Bar Nathan 
& Mazor 




Mazor & Bar 
Nathan 1992, 




Bar Nathan 
& Mazor 




Mazor & Bar 
Nathan 1992, 





i)bath house 
mosaics ii) 


Pottery & 

ii) Crusader- 



N of Theatre 


Bar Nathan 
& Mazor 
Mazor & 
Bar Nathan 
& FiR 16 




Mazor & Bar 
Nathan 1998, 



Next to W. 


Bar Nathan 
& Mazor 

2 mills & 



Mazor & Bar 
Nathan 1998, 


Byz. Agora 


Bar Nathan 
& Mazor 




Mazor & Bar 
& Fig 16 





with mosaic 
floors & 



Gorni 2000, 



Ottoman serai 



with 4 
rooms & 
| staircase 


C8 m -, Abbasid 

Gorni 2000, 




,-. AmHwP&nm 

'■■ ■ 









Table 2 condoned - Bsyawi EMSfUkM 

S. of Temple 



Nov. 1988- 
April 1989 


1988 & 






N.E. of 



E. Bathhouse 




20 Sigma 



N of Theatre 

Next to W. 
bath house 



Byz. Agora 




Foerster A 

Foerster A 

Bar Nathan 

i) industrial 
ii) mosque 
& other 

i) houses ii) 
flour mill 



Foerster & 

Bar Nathan 
A Mazor 



ii) AbbaiM 

i) Abbasid 



Bar Nathan 

Bar Nathan 
& Mazor 




Abbasid or later 


Bar Nathan 
A Mazor 
Mazor A 
Bar Nathan 
1998,17- 20 
A Fig 16 


Bar Nathan 
A Mazor 

i)bath house 

mosaics ii) 

Pottery A 


2 mills A 

Bar Nathan 
A Mazor 



N. of 
Ottoman serai 




with mosaic 
floors A 


with 4 

rooms A 







ii) Crusader- 






Foerster 126: 

Foerster A 
Tsafrir 1988, 
32 A 43 

Foerster 128 

Bar Nathan < 
Mazor 1992, 
36-7: Mazor 
1990, 29-30 

C8" 1 -, Abbasid 

Foerster A 
Tsafrir 1 $90, 

Mazor A Bar 
Nathan 1992, 

Mazor A Bar 
Nathan 1992, 

Mazor A Bar 
Nathan 1992, 


Mazor A Bar 
Nathan 1998, 

Mazor A Bar 
Nathan 1998, 


Mazor A Bar 
A Fig 16 




Gorni 2000, 


ThK Towns of Palatini Undtr Muslim Rule 
Table 2 continued - Bars** Excavation! 



Ottoman serai 




i) 2 room 


with mosaic 


ii) building 

with several 

rooms & 




Pottery & 

i) early Islamic 
ii) Abbasid? 






Tell alOHusn 
(Tel Beth 



Hall & city 


[probably early 




197725/21 140 



4 luxurious 

Pottery & 

Islamic, re-used 
until early CI 1* 

Sion 2000 


Table 3 ■ Tiberias Excavations 















Pottery & 



C4 m -10 m 









C2 0d -8* 







with room 
for glazing 





Oren 1971 



Tiberias (N. 
of south gate 
of Roman 



7 large 


Late Byz.- 





Tiberias (S. o( 
Ottoman wall) 

April 1982 




Paved area 

Pottery & 

C q»_ 10 » 







Centre of 



house with 

gold coins 
and jewels 

cio B -ir 

Onn 1992 



Below Mount 
(250m from 
Lake Tiberias) 



House with 

metal work 





Below Mount 
(250m from 
Lake Tiberias) 



i) public 
ii) houses 



i) C2 Da -8 01 
ii) C9* - 



1 10 

dudrww Pvtut mr 

Tahfe 3 continued - Tiberias Excavations 


Ottoman town 

April July 



of tower L 


of tower M 

of tower N 


i) carry 
iii) post- 




April July 






Feig 1992 


Mt Berenice 


Oct 1990- 


i) l n church 
ii)2 nd 
iii) house 


ii) C8* - 
13 th 


1992, 94-6 



ML Berenice 

Oct 1990- 
April 1991 




C8 n, -9" 

1992, 97 


Mt. Berenice 

Oct 1990- 



Bath house 



1992, 97 




pre- 1993 





C9*-10 lD 




Tiberias. Area 





i) basilica 




i) C4* -8* 
ii) C8* - 






& Gutfeld 

tower, 2 
house, metal 
workshop & 
paved street 

hoard of 




& Gutfeld 







Because of the wealth of information available for the 
sixteenth century it was necessary * —gM 
number of tables to investigate particular ttends jatf 
Sm, A total of twelve tables were made using 
daTderived ultimately from Ottoman archival sources 
and translated inanumber of recent works (Heyd 1960 
Hutteroth and Abdulfattah 1977; Cohen and Lewis 
1978; Bakhit 1982 and Singer 1994). 

Two main problems were encountered when making the 
tables the first was where data was missing and the 
2& concerned the calculation of populations. Where 
data was missing, as for example the revenue figures 
for Jerusalem in 1592, the nearest comp ete set of data 
was used. In order to calculate populations I have 
deviated slightly from the mefood usually •***£» 
for example Hutteroth and Abdulfattah 1977 4Z J). 
Norrnal7the number of households is multiplied by 
nve^nd the total number of mujarrad (bachelors) and 
religious persons is added to this to give ; » total 
papulation In my calculations I have not added the 
wjarrad or religious personnel because ,t appear* that 
neither were consistently recorded in the JgJ-* 
reUgious personnel such as imams and ^** ™« 
often left out of the registers because they we* lexernpt 
from taxation whilst the mujarrad are completely 
missing for the Liwa of Ujjun. As a consequence of the 
Sod I have adopted the *jfi^"&£ 
have been higher than given in the tables and will differ 
slightly from the calculations given elsewhere. 

The tables can be divided into three groups; those 
dealing with population (1-2), those dealing wife 
reUgious composition (3-8) and the third dealing with 
matters of revenue (9-12). 

1) This tabic gives the basic population date on which 
most of the other tables are based and indicates what 
information is available for each year. At the end* 
the table average populations for each city are 
presented and these are ranked in descending order 

2) This gives the population for the middle of the 
*£■£ century (AD1 546/7] , based £*»«« 
available year. The totals differ slightly from the 
averages in Table 1 and place Safed much lower 

down the list. . -ml-, 

3) This table gives an idea of the religious composmon 
of the six main towns of Palestine during the 
sixteenth century based on the number of households. 
(Sv Gaza andNablus have the full range ofreligious 
groups represented including Muslims, Christians, 
JewTand Samaritans. It is notable that on y one town 
tf one date (Hebron in 1525/6) has only Muslims 
present and this is when the total population is lower 
than 1000. 

4) This table shows the religious «>mpo«tion as a 
percentage of the population for each town. It can be 
Sat the r^entege of Muslims never dips below 
50% and is generally about 80% **/*£*- 

5) This table shows the proportion of village^ wth 
mixed reUgious populations. This may be contrasted 
with the towns which have 100% mixed populations 
whereas 96% of villages have Mushm only 

6) P This a u*Te compares percentage of households of 
different religions in urban and rural situabons In 
each case the town is compared with the district in 
which it is located. In general the towns demonstrate 
a much greater mix of different religions. Also there 
is some correlation between the **0~J*£"* 
in the towns and those found in each district. It is 
however notable that Sainaritans are not found 
outside the towns of Gaza and Nablus. (The notes 
explain the composition of the villages). 
7) This table shows the number of imams recorded for 
the six main towns of Palestine. In some cases (Gaza 
in 1525/6 and 1562/3 and Jerusalem IB 1562) a 
general figure for Muslim reUgious persons has been 
given which includes imams, khatibs and muezzms, in 
these cases the total has been divided by three to 
provide some indication of the number In other cases 
((Hebron in 1525/6 and 1562, Jerusalem m 1596/7 
and Nablus in 1596/7) no imams are recorded which 
should not be taken to mean that none were present 
simply that they were not recorded because they 
owed no tax. , . .. 

8) This table is similar to Table 7 and Presents the 
number of imams receded for the four cities of 

southern Syria. . . 

9) This table compares population with revenue for the 
towns and villages of Palestine ranked in order of 

loTThiftebleTs the same as Table 9 except that the 

settlements are ranked in order of revenue 
11) This table compare the urban revenue with that of 
the immediate rural hinterland. On average the urban 
Avenue makes up approximately ^20% of the total fo 
the district except in the case of Safed where .t forms 
nearly 60% of the revenue for the area. 
12} The table compares the revenue per person in tne 
towns and villages. Although there is no obvious 
pattern the table does indicate that there was no great 
difference between urban and rural revenues. 


Andtsw Ptttmtn 


•-••■ ■■• 'iaavP 

:^:.- . 

tabu: i. 

Population of cities in Palestine and Syria in the sixteenth century based on available tax registers. 


l U —ll tH I 











1.1 10 






















































Urban populations of Syria and Palestine in mid-sixteenth century 1 

Total population 2 


41.390 s 




8,100 8 






4,660 a 


3880 d 


3,330 s 


3050 c 


1425 e 

a~ 1543, b«= 1538, c- 1548, d=1538, e=1555 

1. There is no year in which the information for all towns is complete. A best fit was achieved by selecting registers 
which were closest together, giving a mean date of AD 1 546/7. 

2. Estimate based on number of households multiplied by notional average of 5 persons per family 

7h* T&wtuofPakttime Umhr Multm Rule 


Number of households in towns of Palestine during Sixteenth century arranged according to religious affiliation. 

Name of 







Ram la 





507 c 






75 c 













1764 c 






340 c 






81 c 






18 c 












































63 b 

945 a 

— — 







2 s 
* 8 









— — — -- 



t= 1548/9, b - 1555/6, c = 1556/7, d = 1567/8. 

Andrew Petersen 


Percentage of different religious groups in towns of sixteenth century Palestine. 

Name of 












87.1 1% C 






12.89% c 





0% a 

0% c 





0% 8 

0% c 

0% :■ 





79.54% ft 

80.07% c 






15.43% c 





5.17% B 

3.67% c 





f\o do/ 


QQ 1 80/. 

00.81% c 
08 8Q% 

98 42% 






yy . i o /o 

yo.oy /o 



































1 A OTfl/ 



77 ftQ% b 


*i 0r»%° 








Oft C/10/ 

/ f ,oy /o 

22.1 l% b 
0% b 

J 1 » \M%J fO 

0% a 


0% a 

93 76% 






oy.DH /o 


1.70% a 



a = 1548/9, b = 1555/6, c - 1556/7, d = 1567/8. 


The Towns of Palestine Under Muslim Rule 

Religious Composition of villages. 



(% in each district) 


Muslim only 




Christians & Muslims 


Jews & Muslims 


Muslim only 




Christians & Muslims 


Jews & Muslims 


Muslim only 



Christians & Muslims 

Jews & Muslims 


Muslim only 




Christians & Muslims 


Jews & Muslims 


Muslim only 




Christians & Muslims 


Jews & Muslims 



Muslim only 




Christians & Muslims 


Jews & Muslims 



«« of urban and nn*I dements h ad tS96 ^^ fe p^^ rf ^^^ rf <fiflferent 





























































U^7MM69r 0maD "" "**" (VmageS fr ° m HOtteroth & Abdulfetteh ,977 ' > 12 - 220 ' *« <*« * 

Notes to Table 6 

fwSn^tv^ Christian and 241 Muslim families). 'Abud has a Christian majority (19 Christian and 16 

villages have Christian populations 

?2^W whlffiy two have Christian populations. Dayr Darum has large Christian minority (125 Christian 
IS mm^m^ Sawafir al-Halii has Christian majority (91 Christian and 71 Muslim 

3) Hebron district («o*gw) . . 

29 villages with no Christian or Jewish populations recorded. 

predominantly Christians. 8.1% of villages had a Christian population 

*H Wed district (tiwa) excluding nahiyas of Tibnin and §aqif. *._,.«** 

W^vUlag« of which tJ have Jewish populations. 'Ayr » Zaytonn M a gR>StfliS£h 

13 and 59 Muslin families) whilst a third of the population of Bira was Jewish (38 Muslim and 16 Jewisn 

S^Tabariyya 54 villages of which three have mixed populations either Muslim ^Christian or W*ȣ 
2* fcrnrThad a sizeable Jewish minority (95 Jewish households and 426 Muslim households). Two 

SgfSte&C! of which 7 have mixed populations. 4 of these villages had Jewish gN^jSS 
and B^aya? as a majority and two (Kafr Yasif and Kabul) as a minority. 3 of the villages (al-Buia, Kafir Dinkin and 

I^SSSSSt^^^ are mixed, either Muslim and Christian (4 i.e. 2.42%) or Muslim and 
Jewish (7 i.e. 4.24%). 

6) Nabhis district (/iVa). 

ttSS&P** « <*** «h °°° ^ ■- CW8fia ° popuMon ** fonM * ■**" " *• 

S£^W^t?3Z^^^Sfc have Chriai*. pop-ion. Raridi^ toMj N*0^* 
SS^CKMta holtods .nd 9 Muslin, household,) white <he riltag. of -Ask* has Chnstuu, mmon* (8 

K*to iftSSSS** M l» • — 1 0*Un minority (9. H* W -d 7 CW«- 


."*w?v/: V> 

■* f 


Name of City 












20 c 2 

13 4 










30 3 








a = 1548/9, b = 1 555/6, c - 1 556/7, d = 1 567/8, 
1- (29+3), 2 - (59 -3), 3= (88 + 3), 4 = (38+3). 

Numbers of imams in towns of Palestine during the sixteenth century (after HQtteroth and Abdulfattah 1977, 81- 


Towns in the Province of Damascus during the sixteenth century: Number of Imams 






1548 4 


1569 5 






— — — 






— — —- — 




— —- — — 

\-Tapu Defied No.430, 2= Tapu Defteri No.383, 3= Tapu Defteri No. 1 543, 
4- Tapu Defteri No.263, 5- Tapu Defteri No.474. 


7ft# Towmttf Potato* tM* ****** 


Revenue of towns and large villages in AD1596 
Ranked in order of population size 


























Kafr Kanna 




Davr Damm 





Bavt Jala 


Type of 


























village . 








1 ."Jerusalem data is from 1 562/3 as the data for 1596/7 is incomplete 











37 r 640 









Am***F**r*m ? •;•.. •&* y» **" '' : -""' 


Revenue of towns and large villages in AD 1596 
Ranked in order of revenue 



Type of 





























Kafr Kanna 
































Bavt Jala 





Davr Darum 










I. Jerusalem data is fiom 1562/3 as the data for 1596/7 is incomplete 


The Town* of Palatine Vittkr Muslim Rule 


Revenue of towns and villages in AD1 596 1 
Comparison of urban revenue with rural hinterland 

Name of 
















revenue - 

revenue as 
of total 
for nahiya 






















































I . Jerusalem data is from 1 562/3 as the data for 1 59677 is incomplete 


Revenue of towns and villages in AD1596 
Average revenue per person 






















1. Jerusalem data is from 1562/3 as the data for 1596/7 is incomplete 




AJA - American Journal of Archaeology 

BGA - Bibliotheca Geographorum Arabicorum 

BASOR - Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental 

BA1AS - Bulletin of the Anglo-Israel Archaeological 

BSOAS - Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African 

Carl, des Hosp. - Cartlaire generate de I'ordre des 

hospitallers de Saint-Jean de Jerusalem (1100-1310), 

ed. J. Delaville leRoulx, 4 vols. Paris (1894-1906) 
EAEHL - Encyclopaedia of Archaeological Excavations 

in the Holy Land. 
EI - Erez Israel 
El 2 - Encyclopaedia of Islam, second edition Leiden 

Encyclopaedia Judaica (Keter Publishing House Ltd., 

Jerusalem, 16 Vols., Jerusalem, 16 Vols., 1971-2). 
ESI - Excavations and Surveys in Israel (English Version 

of Hadashot Arkheologiot) 
HA - Hadashot Arkheologiot 
IEJ - Israel Exploration Journal 
JARCE - Journal of the American Research Centre in 

JRAS - Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society 
JNES - Journal of Near Eastern Studies 
J MA - Jourrnal of Mediterranean Archaeology 
NEAEHL - New Encyclopaedia of Archaeological 

Excavations in the Holy Land. Ed. Stem Jerusalem 

PEFQ - Palestine Exploration Fund Quarterly Statement 
PJPES - Proceedings of the Jewish Palestine Exploration 

QDAP - Quarterly of the Department of Antiquities of 

RCEA - Combe, E. et al (eds.) 1931 ff. Repertoire 

chronologique d'epigrphie arabe, Cairo 
RB - Revue Biblique 
RRH - Regesta Regni Hierosolymitani, ed. R. Roricht. 

Innsbruck (1904) 
77* - Y.Tsafrir, L. Di Segni and J. Green (1994) Tabula 

Imperium Romani: Judea-Paleastina; Erez Israel in the 

Hellenistic and Roman Periods. Jerusalem 
ZDMG - Zeitschrift des Deutchen Morgenlandische 

2DPV- Zeitschrift des Deutchen PulOstina-Vereins 

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Zeiinger, Y. (2000a) 'Ramla, Yehezqel Street' HA 111: 

Zeiinger, Y. (2000b) 'Na'an (East), the Ramla Aqueduct' 
ft* 111: 58*. 

Zipf, G.K. (1949) Human Behaviour and the Principle of 
Least Effort. New York. 


Abu al-Fida, Tawaqim al-Buldan (Gtographie d'Aboul 
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Baha' al-Din Ibn Shaddad The Life ofSaladin in PPTS 
Vol. Xffl. 

Al-Bakri, Abu Ubayd *Abd Allah ibn 'Abd al-'Aziz 
Kitab al-masalik wa al-mamalik ed MG de Slane reprint 
Paris 1965. 

Al-Baladhuri Futuh al-Buldan ed. M.J. de Goeje EJ. 
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Al-Dimashqi, Cosmographie de Chens *4 Din Abou 
Abdullah Mohammed ed-Dimachqux ed. M. Menren, 
Leipzig (1923). 

Ibn al-'Asakir, Abu al-Qasim "Ah ibn al-Hasan Tariff 

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Ibn al-Athir Kamil at-Tawarikh cd.Tomberg, Leiden 

Ibn Battuta, M. A. Voyages d'ibn Batoutah 4 Vols. ed. 
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The Towns of Palestine Under Muslim Rule 

Van Khakfcm , Abd •HUhmtn Kitab al-'Ibar wa Dtwan 
al-Mubtada' wa-l-Khabar ft Ayyam al- 'Arab wa-1- 
■Ajam wa4-Barbar. cd Nasr al-Hurini. 7 Vols. Bulaq, 
Egypt AH 1284 /AD 1867. 

Ibn Ktandadhbih Kitab al-masalik wa l-mamalik ed. de 
Goeje, BGA, 6. Leiden. 

Ibn al-Furat, Tarikh al-duwal wa;l-muhtk ed and partially 
translated by U. and M.C.Lyons, Ayyubids Mamluks and 
Crusaders, 2 vols. Cambridge (1971). 

Ibn al-Qalanasi, Hamza Dhayl ta'rikh dimshaq ed. H.F. 
Amedroz, Beirut 1908. 

Ibn Sa'd, Abu Abdullah Muhammad, Kitab al-Tabaqat 
al-Kabir ed. E. Sachau et al., 9 vols. Leiden (1905-40). 

Ibn Shaddad, al-Halabi, Al-A'laq al-khatira ft dhikr 
umara' al-sham wa I'jazira. II part 2 Ta'rikh Lubnan, al- 
Urdunn wa-Filistin ed. S. Dahan, Damascus (1962/3). 

Al-Idrissi, Abu 'Abdallah Muhammad, MrariijM* 
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al-lstakhri, Ibrahim ibn Muhammad Masalik al-mamalik 
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al-Mas'udi, Abu al-Hassan 'Ali bin Hussayn Kitab al- 
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al-Maqrizi , Abu al-Abbas Ahmad ibn 'Ali. Al-Mawa'iz 
wa-l-itibarfi dhikr al-khitat wa-l-athar Reprint of Bulaq 
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al-Maqrizi , Abu al-Abbas Ahmad ibn "Ali. Histoire des 
Sultansmamiuoks deVEgypte. Trans. M. Quatremere, 2 
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Muiir al-Din, al- 'Ulaymi Histoire de Jeruslaem edt 
d'Hebron depuis Abraham jusqu '& la fin du Xveme siecle 
deJ.-C. trans. H. Sauvaire, Paris (1876). 

al-Muqaddasi, Shams al-Din Ahsan al-taqasimfi ma'rifat 
al-aqalim Ed. M.J. De Goeje, E.J. Brill Leiden (1906). 

Ibn Battuta, M.A. The Travels of Ibn Battuta AD. 1325- 
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the Arabic text edited by C. Defremery and R.B. 
Sanguinetti by H.A.R. Gibb, Hakluyt Society, Cambndge 
University Press (1958). 

Ibn Iyas, Muhammad Tarikh Misr Cairo 1311. 

Ibn Jubayr The Travels of Ibn Jubayr trans R.J.C. 

Ibn Jubayr Voyages d'lbn Djubayr trans. Gaudfrey- 
Demombynes, Paris (1953). 

al-Muqaddasi, Shams al-Din Ahsan al-taqasimfi ma'rifat 
al-aqalim Trans. AMiquel. Institut Francais de Damas. 

al-Muqaddasi, Shams al-Din. Description of Syria 
Including Palestine,^ PPTS, Vol. IV. 

al-Mussabbihi, Muhammad Akhbar Misr Cairo (1978). 

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W.M. Thackston, Albany 1986). 

Nasir i- Khusraw. Diary of a Journey Through Syria and 
Palestine trans G. Le Strange in PPTS vol. IV (1888). 

it&l •wiusi'ji'Vto ■:.;•*.-:*' vm 


Atarf Ifc. AH, fflteA jkM oZ-ojAa, 14 WESTERN AND BYZANTINE SOURCES 

vob^ Cairo (1913-1918). 

Sibt ibo al-Jawzi Mir 'at al-zaman facsimile edn. By J.R. 
Jewett, Chicago 1907; ed. unidentified, Hydrebad, 1951. 

Tabari, Muhammad bin Jarir Ta 'rikh al-Rusul wa-l Muluk 
ed. I. Guidi Leiden (1 885-6). 

Al-Waqidi, Muhammad ibn 'Umar Kitab al-Maghazi ed 
M. Jones, 3 vols. Oxford (1966). 

Al-Ya 'qubi, Ahmad b. Abi Ya'qub b Wadih Kitab at- 
Buldan ed de Goeje, BGA 7, Leiden (1892). 

Yaqut ed. F. Wttstenfels Geographisches Wdrterbuch I- 
VI .Leipzig (1866-73). 

Yaqut, Ibn 'Abd Allah al-Hamawi Mu'jam al-Buldan Dar 
sadir li al-tiba'a wa al-nashr. 5 vols. Beirut (1955-56). 

Yaqut, Ibn 'Abd Allah al-Hamawi Mu'jam al-Udaba ed. 
D.S. Margoliouth. Leiden 1907-26. 

al-Zahiri, Khalil Tableau politique et adminstratif d 
I'Egypte, et de Syrie et du Hijaz sous la domination des 
soultans Mamlouks du Xlle au XV siecle ed P. Ravaisse, 
Puis (1894). 

Choricius (edd. Foester and Richtsteig) Laudatio 

Casok, P. (1494) Viaggio a Geruslamme. Milan 
translated as Canon Pietro Casola's Pilgrimage to 
Jerusalem in the year 1494 M. Newett, Manchester 

Cyril of Scythopoiis (ed. Shwartz) Vita Sabae. (Texte und 
Untersuckungen zur Geschichte der Altchristlichen 
Literatur 49 ii) Leipzig (1939). 

R.B.C. Huygens ed. De constntctione Castri Saphet. 
Construction et junctions d'un chateau fort franc en tern 
sainte. Koninklije Nedelandse Akademie van 
Wetenschappen, Afdeling Letterkunde, VerhandAngen, 
Nieuwe Reeks, 111). Amsterdam, Oxford and New York 

Joinville The Life of St Louis in Chronicles of the 
Crusades trans M.R.B. Shaw. London (1963). 

Procopiu8 De Aedificus Loeb, London. 

Severus ibn al-MuqaffiY History of the Patriarchs of the 
Coptic Church of Alexandria ed and trans. B.Evetts in 
Patrologia Orientalis 1 (1907), 99-211, 381-518: 5 
(1910), 215: 10 (191 5), 357-551. 

Tobler, T and A. Molinier eds. Itineria Hierosofymitana 
Geneve 1877/80. 

William of Tyre ed. R.B.C. Huygens in Corpus 
Christianorum, Continuato Mediaeualis vols LXH1- 
LXIIIa and trans. EA. Babcock and AC. Krey A History 
of Deeds Beyond the Seas, Columbia University Records 
of Civilization, Sources and Studies, vol. XXXV New 
York (1943). 

II III 11 1 . 

B= bathouse 

Figure 1. The stereotypical Muslim city of North Africa, based on work by W. Marcais (1928), G. Marcais (1945), R. 
UTourneau 1957) and J. Berque (1958) (after Alsayyad 1991. 16, Fig 2.1). 

Figure 2. The stereotypical Muslim city of the Middle East, based on Sauvaget's text (1934-41) (after Alsayyad 1991, 
19, Fig 2.2). 


jimfe*».V:<vy ••• •••:*■ ->v 

(2) G- place 

Q B- place 
O K - Place 

A - place 

• M - place 
— Boundary of the G -region 

Boundary of the B- region 

Boundary of the K - region 

----- Boundary of the A- region 
Boundary of the M - region 

Figure 3. Idealised Central Place System after Christaller. 

.. «% 

Rainfall Map of Palestine 
(■ftcr MacOooald 200 1 , 594) 

t. Rainfall map of Palestine (after MacDonald 2001, 596). 


f.J *#%>.*■{ ;. % ..;" 

• Damascus 




n i 


| 1 












Figure 5. Palestine during the Byzantine period, administrative divisions (after Watson 2001, 464). 


,,. ..... .-»- - 

Palestine: tWts in the 
Byzantine Period after 

A.M. Jones 

ifl*.* .'■•.*"'£ .-*%»•■. 

•4 P\- «-£* ^-O"^ !;-> 


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■ :-.■■' 


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1 1 a*; At,.,^ T\>w ■ • • •,':".?•.' '.'-'.■ 


. j %' •"" ' Jerusalem ".■};■ '-. 

. r"y; :.-:•:• ::o;^ >$>* 

t *;**£>• 

•©"V . 'r: :°:<;0.-;.:;;f« pa ':^ 

■ ' '.■'"'.*. "0 Beerschba -:.;^; : ;y • -S JS 

(jv.„.;i ■••••-..,• v'.; .^ — .\ 

, o:.. :v... - •, t-" 

v- -.. r ■ ..•" j'*" "-,^'.; st— ss !>•■•,::■■ --l^k' ,"-' ."■ • 

• ; ■ ^'i ■!;:::::: : ..^y? >: »■ '• ; i,# f MS?§f I: : 

|., , ■"-,,' . . - - ,'i :';"•'• •-■'"' ' : ' . ' : ' '• .-'■'.'•-' '"V '■ '•' '. '-'•'• '• '• » .*-*r • • 

. •• ■» in aokm-.. • ■■"■ •-:' • • " •-■■j- ■■''■.■ :■■■. ,.- ss-.iw '■■ ..-■-:■••'• •- , . , ■ < , ■ - 

u s 10 

Figure & Palestine: towns in 

the Byzantine period after AM Jones. 

Indian Oeian 

Early Islamic Conquests 

(after Nicolle and McBridc 1 993a, 4)) 

Figure 7. Early Muslim conquests after Nicolle and McBride (1993a, 4). 


Tltt Towns of i 



ft d 


• :•# \ 

* •. ■*.■ ," • 

v^ • 


• ' • . ' I 







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;■ sMSjassifeft '%t vc * 3! ••#' ' 

Palestine: Towns in the early 
Islamic Period 


New Town 

Existing Town 

, i i ■■ i. '■ W Bii nrtl 


H . . .» . .if I 

■■ • ■<:..!• ,4 'A B't ■ • * •., • • • • 

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— Mediterranean Sea 

&< • , ^-,1^-" • ■>, -v i > t pr • # •■••■•■-:•■ 


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.Minatal-Qal'a £, ,^.-.-.*.C)^ : v%l I 

• • J -f ■"&:■:■:■'::$ A===iw- f •.-.-. ■.-.-. 
^ ,<: ■ ' n -Q • i ■ ■ ■ '■■ '■ • : • ' &*%jnE=Sffi-- '*& '■■■■'■ 

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J -"■'' ■■''-'''■' ■ ■ ■ - X..— " i ''l i— '"' ■ ■ ' ■ " ' ■ ' ■ ' 

Figure 9. Palestine: towns in the early Islamic period. 


*^ ^^■■J^^^W w^^^^v J^^^Vv^^B ^< 








Ffcw« JO. Palestine: towns in the early Islamic period according to Central Place theory. 

Amkvw Petersen 




Fisure 11. P alesiine ^ % the — ^ ^^^^^ ^ Walmsley2m ' 

Figure 12. Palestine in the tenth and eleventh centuries: major 

routes (after Walmstey 2001, 518). 


Am**w Peters** ; ' 

Figure 13. Jerusalem in the Early Islamic period. 

The Towns of Palestine Under Muslim Rut 


Figure 14. Khirbat al-Majjar near Jericho. Site plan after recent excavations. From Palestine Antiquities Departmt 

•■-■- \:. 

|L_« r j»__n_« 








• » • ■• * i *• " 


3 B W 

L73I* /Vli'lii 

TJ 11 !? 






'Anjar after Creswell 

M Mosque B Baths P Palace 

Figure IS. 'Anjar after Creswell. 


The Towns of Palestine Under Muslim Rut, 


Figure 1 6. Plan ofKufa m the Umayyad period with tribal divisions (after Djait 1986, 302). 



'..t •v^V^lri^'Y'. rf** ■■• X - ■'■'< 


Mamluk Frontiers 
(iftw Nieolle wd McBride 1993b, 4) 

Figure 1 7. Mamluk territory after Nieolle and McBride (1993b, 4). 


■■".. &<'j3|j|££?' 

. . . I*,.l - , 

Palestine: Towns in the MtmJnfc 

™ Major city 
^ Town 

'■;■." ' .A^-i'-'-i 1 "- • ■ 

i>i(t, A,' :, W'-,,. '"•■•: 

'•'•'■' ••.,• % - • .■."> < 

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Qaqun \.,ps* ■ • . 

—— — —y - «v- ■ ,,■ >^ •}'■.•.•:•.•.;.'•. • 
_„r^ / . «g. «.-«••." ' : : Hebron 0;:;:;;:^ : 

aft, : :^u : : : : : 

J. . r., •:,- 

RamfaA -,' . 

■TJ* /• • •:?.•■■•'■:•'■ 

^ Jerusalem^ .'• 

p* /■'• ■«■*./■ '-'••w-;.; 

. Majdal / .«£*; ; A\-'/*,-'.\\-Ti 
S~ , f, ' Bayl Jibrin j& \\ • / >^i 

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, s f - •....., i ■-•' •' i.f ..? :< 




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I Figwne ifi. Palestine: towns in the Mamluk period. 


U< *»SV.-*\*1,'W'\ Ti'i ft "! f\ 















(<§) AJLUN 


Figure 19. Palestine: towns in the Mamluk period according to Central place theory. 

Thm Towns of Palmitic Lfefcr MarfAn Km 

Figure 20. Plan of Jerusalem in the medieval period. 

Andrew Petersen 

Figure 21. Plan ofNablus in the Mamluk period. 

77* Town of Palatine UmbrmaHmRu 

1. Jami-al-KeWf 

2. Jami' Khah Witayei 
X Jami' nl-MaghrnM 

4. Jomi' Shaykh Hoahim 

5. Smm\' Ibn Mnrvran 

6. Jomi' al-Ziiliirdimri 

7. Jomi' ihn I ithmon 

Figure 22. Plan of Gaza in the Mamluk period. 

jlmHwPtknm ■>:V."^ u ': y -■■■'■* *■% 

.. ., 




I km. 


Figure 23. Cities ofMervfrom the third to fifteenth century AD- 

— ■ i ni iii u i ; >i m i>i». n . 

Safad 1 .-. J 

i mh*\y — *•■** 


Q«da / 
Ba<albak f 

$*m $arif 

Q»da Hawran 

\ Lajjun /'^ 


Figure 24. Palestine: administrative districts (tiwos) in the sixteenth century (after HUtteroth and Abdulfattah). 



1 ,--5- •• '^i : '\. ■ r ''i .*.""• 

-v-k ->:,::: 

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. . .x,x :xx : x : : : x;- : - 

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w>, v . : : ncbronQ ; : 

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O S 10 

3D km'.' . ' '..';;. r'-:-' -: ...... ... > 

Figure 25. Palestine: cities according to Ottoman tax records. 

aiiWww aM Hl 

li.- t-Wnjj(ji«ij*i'.»»**>lf •• - 

Palestine: Major population 
centres in the Sixteenth Century 

■ population over 3000 
• population between 2000 and 3000 
♦ population between 1 000 and 2000 

— Mediterranean Sea 

17 M . ,,;?•• •' «*' • #T M •i-' 1 v* • Vi- ' • ' • 
t^** ?•.%.•.■.■.■.• .HI flfc ' •• >'**•• • '■■•■■' 
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v. >.-', '• : -. !■' A ' ■•'"■'. '..- ' /'■■■"-'' ^T — 
fct >: i-. -Saluriyyi «►■> -•• * f ' t _ (C%\ ?£Z: 

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■ ■ ■ & > • • ■ f :■.■.■'.-. - : \^u •■ 

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> Majdal ^^ ' ,.•'•:.-,• ^yt i»ta #• Beihiebenil fl ./, 



• Jabulya' 

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* •Antalya , _ .;,... ,^' .' , • .' . ' . ^%T- '. • *?; ^ ?b V» ' • ' '#&?- ' ■■' • '*■* '• 

■'-■■■ 'i ■■ "' ■ • • • ■ Hebron ■ ' ' ■' •' ■'/'"■ ■ - j [ S._ _• ' ■'-) :-\ ■]■]■',■[■.■'.■ 

.»>■■:'■ :-.":i!; :•:-:•:•:• 


/ • l)«yr Datum . 

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: • ''"^"' ' • \.f $ **/ 'V'- Zh~ : % • i v ' ! ■' ^^ " < ^M "■' " • ' > • ' • •* ■■■■■"■• ■ 


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i>' 't 

o s io 3D km .'.;.v : . ; ! .-. .... .. ;' • _. --' f.--.- '.■■'»•.• ? . * ;;: ;.:::: v. - . • ■ 

Filgwre 2d. Palestine: major population centres in the sixteenth century. 


Andrew Petersen 

Figure 27. Palestine: limits of permanent settlement in the sixteenth century. 

The Town* ofPakstim UmkrMertm ft 

Figure 28. Negev in the early Islamic period with different types of settlement. 

Andrew Petersen 

30km. i 

inhabited in early Islamic period w 
deserted in early Islamic period w 

Figure 29. Negev with towns inhabited in Byzantine and early Islamic period with rainfall indicated in isothetes. 

Sites with Islamic period remains marked 

Figure 30. 'Aqaba map of archaeological sites. 


Andrew Petersen 

Islamic Aqaba 

University of Chicago excavations at 'Ayla (al- 1 Aqaba) 1986-92 

(after Whitcomb) 

Figure 31. Islamic 'Aqaba after Whitcomb. 

The Twin ofPaksttne Umkr Muslim ft 


Local km map of excavated sites with remains from the 
Roman, Byzantine and Early Islamic periods. The *Old 
City* of the late Ottoman period is shown hatched. 

r j% 






• Islamic period remains reported 

Figure 32. Beersheba excavated archaeological sites, with Islamic remains marked. 

J-.. u:.V.\-< •'• s* 


Location map of excavated sites with remains !rom the 
Roman, Byzantine and Early islamic periods. The 'Old 
City' of the late Ottoman period is shown hatched. 




■I Am 





Sites with graves or cemeteries marked 

Figure 33. Beersheba excavated archaeological sites, with cemeteries and graves marked as black circle. 

._ .. t»o 

The Towns of Palestine Under Muslim Ru 



C = churches 

M= mosque 

(after Brimcr and Baruch 1981 , 228) 
Figure 34. Plan oflsbaita with churches and mosques indicated (after Brimer 1981, 228). 



A>*frwwPe*rrm ■.--:•■ 

Figure 35. Capitals of Galilee from the first to the fourteenth 

century AD. 

Capitals of Galilee 
from the first to the 

fourteenth century AD 

1-18 AD 

2*c.400AD ; 

3-635 AD 
4=1 191 AD 
5=1266 AD 

Flg*re 36 Urho* c entrca in CaWfctr dHrmg m ^ ^^^ 

Tht Towns ofPaksttne Umhr Muslim R 



Figure 37. Urban centres in Galilee during the Crusader period. 


Figure 38. Urban centres in Galilee during the Mamluk period. 


AmdrewPetermt : •. - 


Figure 39. Urban centres in Galilee during the Ottoman period. 


!»• Urn* o/Palmtim Umbt 

Baysan in the Early 
Islamic Period 

1) Umayyad towing, rnocqitt and 

1 0) Umayyad homing. 


I l)Urntyyad housing. 

2> Vmtjywi »hop uiiiW 

12) Unuyyad bowuif. 

9) Uoayyad , Muslim cemetery. 

IJjUsneyyad towing. 

4) AbbuJd moaque. 

I4)Um(yyad housing. 

5) Unuyyad nonunwoul wq. 

! 5) Unsaid towing. 

•) Utnayyad peony workshop. 

16) Moequft, poaaibiy Abhand 

7) Umayyad pottery workshop. 

1 7) Unuyyad dyeing fetaudlatkm 

I) Umayyad bousing. 

) 1) Umayyad lime kiln 

O industrial 


O commercial 

O religious (mosque) 

O resident isl 

9) Unuyyad kMtfaft 
Figure 40. Baysan in the early Islamic period. 


'-.' - ."". "' •■ ' ■ •■ • 

Figure 41. Baysan. Reconstruction ofUmayyad market entrance with glass mosaic inscriptions (after Khamis 1997, 

VmTtomstfPalatlm I h + fM m l* ** 




Market Place 


latimid period houses 



large puMic building 

Kiln Sile 

Figure 42. Tiberias in the early Islamic period. 


•.• ... «v.;i '"■ V* •.• '■". \ 



figure 43. Safed; historic buildings and quarters. 


TU Towns of Potato* UittlirMmHmRt 

Coast of Palestine in (he Tenth Century 

(after Muqaddasi edde Goeje, 177) 

Figure 44. Coast of Palestine in the tenth century with ribatat after Muqaddasi. 


Andrew Petersen 


i Tantura 





Figure 45. Coastal towns of Palestine under the Crusaders. 

ftt TowmofPoUstim Mr iteS** 

Figure 46. Coast of Palestine under the Mamluks. 


Andrew Petersen 

1 Fatimid houses and shops 

2 Bathouse 

3 Great Mosque (probable location) 

4 Green Mosque (probable location) 

Figure 47 A^mlnn in the early Islamic period 


J He lOWJV oj ratvsunv wn 


Figure 48. Majdal; historic buildings and quarters. 

* *'*<• >"a'rA"%n' •-.• 



A- ribat or fbnrest 

B"r«mains of building «'ith dome and voutts 

C -rcmiim of vaulted buildinas 

Mediterranean Sua 

Figure 49. Plan ofMinat IsduaV Minat al-Qal 'a. 

The Towns of Palestine Under MbUh Ra 


Umayyad Fortifications 
Crusader Fortifications 

Figure 50. Arsuf. 

Andrew Petersen 


Figure 51. Caesarea in the early Islamic period, I. Eighth century. 


■ • 

.'.■•;'• «« i 


ImgnKd Gwderu 


Figure 52. Caesarea in the early Islamic period. 2. Eleventh century. 



Andrew Petersen 

Ramla Archaeological Excavations (1) 




A= White Mosque; B= Anaziyya Cisterns; C= Crusader church 

Sites with pre- 12 th century pottery marked 

Figure 53. Ramla archaeological excavations (I), sites with pre-12* century pottery marked with black dot. 

The Towns of Palestine Under Muslim Rui 


Ramla Archaeological Excavations (2) 

A= White Mosque; B- Anaziyya Cisterns; C= Crusader church 

Sites with tombstones marked 

Figure 54. Ramla archaeological excavations (2). sites with tombstones marked with black dot. 


Andrew PttcrM* 

■:■■■■ ■ • 

Ramla Archaeological Excavations (3) 



A= White Mosque; B= Anaziyya Cisterns; O Crusader church 

Sites with vats and red pigment marked 

Figure SS. Ramla archaeological excavatinn* (1). sites with vats and red pigment marked with black dot. 



Rami|#&chaeoiogical Excavations (4) 

: : i*-~. 




A- White Mosque; B- Anaziyya Cisterns; C-* Crusader church 
Pre- 12 th century high status buildings marked 

Figure 56. Romla archaeological excavations (4), sites withpre-12" 1 century high status buildings marked with 


>'.) v^ni^nv.:- ••.'' ■.,* 

Ramla Archaeological Excavations (5) 





A= White Mosque; B= Anaziyya Cisterns; C= Crusader church 

Sites with stone lined circular cisterns marked 

Figure 57. Ramla archaeological excavations (S), sites with stone lined circular cisterns marked with black dot. 


71* 7mm ofPaSmtim Utim IHJ»j| 

Ramla AMiaeologicaJ Excavations (6) 




A= While Mosque; B= Anaziyya Cisterns; C= Crusader church 

Sites with evidence of pottery production marked 

Figure 58. Ramla archaeological excavations (6), sites with evidence of pottery production markeith black dot. 

Andrew Peltrst* 

Ramla Archaeological Excavations (7) 




A= White Mosque; B= Anaziyya Cisterns; C= Crusader church 

Sites with post 1 1 th century pottery marked 

Figure 59. Ramla archaeological excavations (7). sites with post 11* century pottery marked with black dot. 

m Item cfPakrfm U*+ *miHm *» 






2 T3 4» P f- 

i> 3 « o o 

S f f J .« 

•< CO U O Ul 


AHarew reierstn 


The Towm of Pali .'W<m Ru 

Phase 1 (I'mayyad) 
Phase 4 (Mainluk 1) 

■ Phase 2 (Abbasid-I'atimid) 
D Phase 5 (Mamluk II) 

Phase 3 (Ayyubid) 
Phase 6 (Ottoman) 

Figure 62. The While Mosque Ramlu. Archaeological phase pl.m based on Kaplan (1959), Ben !)<>v 1984, Burgoy 
(unpublished) and personal observation. 

z'w Petei 

Plate I Ku/a; Dor al- Imara with < rJ 1 -\" I /<•.«/»«• behind 

Plate 2. 'Anjar. View of city tram Worth-West with eardo running diagonally across foreground 


The Towns of Palestine Under Muslim Ru 


Plate 3. Khirbat al-Matiar near Jericho. View of palace with bathhouse in ta kground 

Plate 4. Khirbat at-Maljar near Jertchii Mfcwguc 

Andrew Pete 

Plate 5. Jisr. Hildas between Ramla and I '.yddu One qj a number of bridges built by Bavins- to revive th,- Via Marts 

Plate 6. J Is l JindaS between Ramla and Lydda Detail of liOltt framing inscription. 

The Towns of Palestine Under Musli 


St ' ^ 

v^ - ^^^^^^Hl 

%!■ T^^^BM 


P/a/t- 7 Wfen Aerial view of the curl: city, Cyaur Kalit. ami its citadel Erk Kala (c.500 BC to 1 100 I/" 
background the southern part of the medieval city of Sultan Kala with mausoleum of Sultan Sanjar in to right CO 

mausoleum of Sultan Sanjar in the ventre of Sultan Kala 

Andrew Peh- 

Plate 9 Nessona: acropolis with twentieth century Turkish hospital visible on summit 

pi a! .,. , „ ,, ,,/ i;,rly r.ntninsjram acropolis. 

The : Palestine Under Muslim Rut 


I #■ ~ ■••■ la 

Plate II hbaita f Shtvta: vim of town from north with fortified m .ill of North ehweh in foreground 

Plate 12. hhaita Shtvta: interior of North Church. 



Plate 13. Isbtiita Sluvtn mosque adjacent Ho South ( lunch. 

Plate 14. Isbaha Shivtu One of two large reservoirs at centre of town 


The Towns of Palestine I. mler Muslim Ruli 

R •; 


C~ I -- 

/ s Mi Futah Photis. One <</ the 23 cisterns. 

' IT 

Pfaftl 16. Baysan Jam, ' al- 'Arab am. Note larger masonn at base ofwaB ami shape <>/ minaret (No. 16 on Fig 40) 

Andrew Petersen 

Plate 1 7. Baysan ( 'rus,i,ler citadel with earlier remains in foreground (D.Pringle 206/27) 

Plate IS Baysan: Khan al-Ahmar to the west of the medieval town. 

//i< Towns of Palestine Under Muslim Rut 

Phne 19. Saffuriyya: Crusader lower (re -modelled in eighteenth nineteenth and twentieth centuries) in the centre oft 
mins. \ote re-tot* sarcophagaL 

Plate 2" .lotto Reused Corinthian capital in courtyard of Great Mosque (Jamf al-Kehir). 


Andrew Petersen 

Plate 21. Jaffa. Sea Mosque \<>t, evlindrical late Ottoman minaret Stands an an earlier meJie pa/j '< base 

Plate 22. Mujdal; Jami ' al- Kebir/rom w est » ith modern market place in foreground (before 1 948 market plan 


Towns <•) Palestine Under Muslim Ru, 

Plate 23. Uajdal, .hum al- Kebir from east with site ofpre-1948 market place in foreground 

Plate 24. Ma/dal. Jami ' al- Kebir entrance to courtyard with re-used column* and t apilals. 


Andrew Petersen 

Plale 29 Arsul. sauthcrn part of I maw ad city M all 

Plan if Ilaram Sidna 'Alt. Shrme <>J Mamluk origin located 10 the SOVth "/ the ( rnsadcr and early Islamic City, 

towns of Palestine Under Muslim Ru 

Plate 31 Caesarea: Bosnian mosque (trim fe&lth I ■ ntwy). 

Plate 31 Yibm tavern. Medieval bridge attributed to Mamtuk Sultan Baybars circa AD 1270. 


■ N H 

Plan- 33. Yihiin Yarns. Maqam (shrine) Abu Hureim built in 1274 under ttu orders qj the Mamhik Sultan Baybars. 

Plate 34. Ramla: view of city from ! 

The Towns of Palestine Under Muslim Rule 

Plate 35. Ramla. White Mosque from North-West with square itnteture m foreground and mam prayer hall helm, 
(Creswell Archive Ashmohtan Museum. Oxford. Neg. No. 5229). 

Plate 16 Ramla White Mosque with main prayer hall from minaret. Note straight joint sv P n,a,b,y, t* hay from 2* I 
• and right of mihrab bay (Creswell Archive Ashmolean Vuseum, Oxford. Neg. No. C5226). 


I nJivxi Petersen 

Plate 37. Ramla: White Mosque from East with minaret to left and graveyard in foreground (Creswell A> 
Ashmoiean Museum, Oxford. Neg. No. 5230). 

Plate 3 '9 Romhi a!-Aiui;i\\<i lister/is Irani above (Creswell Archive Ashnialeun Museum Oxtaid Vpq V/i riffl) 

Rjw ru of Palestine Under Muslim Rut 

Plate 18 RomL,: White Mosque. Detail of dome above mihrah. Note gap between back wall t nntommg »r 
uth muaarnas pendente to support drum for dome (Cmwell irchh*. Ashmokm Museum, Q, 


Plate 40. Ramla: al-'Anazivva cisterns during clearance (Creswell Archive. Ashmolean Museum. O.xjonl. Neg 

Plate 41 Ramla: <//- 'Aiuafyya ■ totems. Inscription dated Dim l-IIijju 172 (May 789). 



Tlie Towns of Palestine Under Muslim Ku 

Plate 42. Ramla; excavations to St mth west of White Mosque during <k\ < << ipment work (No 13 1 m Figs. 5 • 

a \ 

' f* 


'late 43. Ramla: detail "/ excavations to south-west of Whit, Mosque showing tessellated pavement. 


frew Petersen 

Plate 44. Ram/a. Mosaic with animals inducting lions, hints, ami donkey Currently in R.imla Municipal l.ibnm 
m QUch v excavations in 'Little Holland' (No. 18 Figs 53-V) 



Abbas ibnWalid 30-31 
AM 28 30, 45-46, 79-80 

\KI Allah ibn 'Amr al-'As 61 
lallah ibn al -Qays 79 
•Abd al-Malik 27. 84 
Abu al-Fida 49 

Abu Ali llassanb. Ahmad al-Banna 49 
Abu Lughod, Janel 4-5 
Abu al-Fida 68 

v 37.67.72,79.81. 103, 108.113 
Aqaba. Ayla) see Aqaba 

\du i forusalem) be 104 

aerial photography i. 1 5- 1 6 

\,lun 37-38, 68 

Mam al-Dm Sanjar al-Jawli 92 
Wexandira (Egypt) 7 

Aleppo 8. 37. 39. 4 1.110 
•Alma 42 
Amathus ix 
'Amman 30. 38, 105 

■\mr ibn al-'As 46, 54, 61, 76, 84 

iimsur 29 

Angkor Thorn (Cambodia) 7 
■Anjar 30-32. 53. 100.104-105 
Annates 1 1-13 

ii ix 
Anlioch 35, 86 

Anlipatris (Ras al-'Ayn. Tell Aphek) ix, 27 
\pamea 23-4 

Appolonia (Sozusa. Arsuf) ix. 28 
V M ha ( Wayla. Ada, Ayla) x. 25. 28, 46. 47-53, 
62,65,71, 106, 108-111, 113 
Aqsa Mosque 27, 32. 35 
\quitame 8 
arehaeoboiany 18 
archacozoology 17-18 
Aretas (Nabatean king) 57 

Arsuf (Appolonia, Sozusa) ix. 28, 79-80, 82-3, 103, 104- 

Ascalon ix. 32. 36. 38, 42. 79. 83-85, 89, 109, 1 13 

Uhdodix.79 82, 83, 85-86, 

Ashdod Yarn (Minai Isdud) see Minat al Qal'a 

AssafbinTarabay 41 

•Alhlil 35-36. 79. 81. 103. 113 

Auerbach. Felix 14 

Augusiopolis (Avdal. Oboda) x, 45-46, 53-56 

'Auja 1 latin see Nessana 

Avdat (Augusiopolis. Oboda) x, 45-46. 53-56 

\\!a (Wayla. Aqaba, Aela) see Aqaba 

•AynJalui (battle) 37.66,68 

Ayyubids 33. 37-39, 53, 70, 107 

Azotus Hippinus (Ashdod. lsdud) ix 

Azotus Paralus (Ashdod Yam) ix 

Ba'albak 26. 31.43.86 
Baldwin I (King of Jerusalem) 49 

Baeatha x 

Baghdad 7. 8. 26, 30. 31. 49. 105 

Bait Suriq 38 

Baladhur. 25.30.48,86,95,97,99 

Balqa 38 

Banu A'.i\ya 49-50 

Banu Judham48 

a 29 
Bashlaq (Mamluk emir) l >4 
Basra 29, 109 
bastide 8 

Baybars. al-Zahir (Mamluk Sultan) 43, 72-73. 74. 82, 

84, 87. 89 
Baysan (Scythopolis. Beth Shc'an) x. 20. 26, 27-28. 3 
42-43,65,66,67-71,76, 103, 104-105. 106, 108-11 

Bavt Jala 42 
Bayt Jibnn (Beth Guvnn. Eleutheropolis) ix, 39 

bedouin 26, 49. 56 

Bcersheba (Bir Saba'. Birosaba) x. 46. 54-57, 65-66, 


Beirut 39.81 

Bcih Guvrin l Bayt Jibnn. Fleutheropolis) ix 

Beth She-an (Baysan. Seylhopolis) sec Baysan 

Bethlehem 19. 35.42, 66 

Berque, Jacques 4 

Bir Saba' see Bcersheba 

al-BnaS. 38. 113 

Birosaba sec Beersheba 

Bittylius ix 

Black Death see plague 

Bosra 30. 48 

Bostra 22, 24 

Bradford (England) 106 

Braudel, Ferdindnad 2-3, 5, 8, 1 1-12 

British Isles 2 

Bruges 8 

Bui lict, Richard 12 

Burayr 42 

burgess courts 35, 38 

Burgoyne, Michael 97 

Byzantine Palestine 19-24. 50-51, 53-54 

Cacsarea ix. 21. 25. 31, 79-80, 86-89, 103, 104. 102 

109. 113 
Cairo 8. 37. 38. 41, 65, 85. 104-105 
Capernaum 29. 65. 105 
Cardiff University i 
Cameron. Avcril 19-20 
Catal HQyuk 6 
Central Place Theory 13-14 
( haudhuri. K.N. 5-6, 8 
Childe 1 
Chrisialler, Walter 13 




corns I 7 
Cologne 8 

Expedition 59-60,63 
Constantino (Byzantine Empire) 19 
Constantinople 4 1, 50 

de Chevaliers 35 
Crusaders S. 32-3, 35-36, 37, 38. 49, 51-53, 65, 68. 70, 

71.72-74. 78. SO-S I. 83. 88, 95-6. 11! 
phon 3 1 
Cyprus 73 

of Scythcpolis (bishop 

Daburiyya 38, 65 

Damascus 8, 26. 27. 32, 37, 38. 43. 65, 8 1 , 85, 96. 98, 
104, 105. 107 
al-'lmara 108-109 
Dar al-Sabbaghht ( I louse of I >yers) 30 
Darum (Deyi al-Balah, Dayr Darum) x. 35-36, 81 
Dayr al-Balah see Darum 

r Darum see Darum 
Decapolis 68 

Derek Riley Fund for Aerial Archaeology i, 16 
Dome of the Rock [Qubbat al-Sakhra) 26, 21. 32, 35-36. 

43, 108 

Dor (Dora. Tantura) ix, 7. 28, 79, 103 

sec Dor 
Dhahir al-Umar 76. 78 

ai-Dimashqi 72 

Dtocaesarea sec Seppboris 

Dioilcuonapolis i\ 
Diospolis (I .oil. Lydda) \x 
Dyer, Chris 14 

earthquake! s) 49, 54. 59. 68-69, 74, 95 

Eilat see Aqaba 

Elagabalus (Roman emperor) 76 

Eleuthcropolis (Bayt Jtbrin. BcthGuwini IX 
Elusa (Khalassa) x, 45-46, 57-58, 59, 1 13 
l.mmaus iNicopolisi iv 29. 31, 105 aichacology 17 
Eudocia (Byzantine Empress) 19 
i.usebius 19 

Exalo x 

Fakhral-Dinal-Ma'aniU 82 
Fatimids26, 12,35,49.79-80 
Florence 8 

Fulcher of Chatres 93 

Polk (king of Jerusalem) 49, 72 

Fustat29. 107. 109 

Gabae x 
Galilee 65-7S 
Gascony 8 
Gaulane x 

Gaza ix. 15. 19. 20. 21. 27. 31. 38-39, 41.42. 43. 53. 57. 
79,81,83,85,96, 104, l"7. 108, 109. 113 

Geniza 26 
geophysics I S 
Gcrara x. 103 
Ghent 8 
Gimont s 

Grubcbatim. von 4-^ 
Guliek. John 6-7.9 

al-llati/ (Fatimid caliph) 49 

Haifa 29, 38. 79. 103 

Hajj (pilgrimage to Mecca) 4 1 . 47. 82. 105 

al-Hajjaj 29 

Hakim ibn Asma 61 

Mima 108, 110 

llaniai Gader 20 

Hammam al-Sarah 53 

Hattin. battle of viii. 68. 74 

Harding, Lancaster 50 

I larun al-Rashid ( Abbasid caliph) 26, 48, 79, 99 

Hauran 22 

Ha ve rf o r dw est 7. l io 

Hebron x. 15. 27. 38-39. 42. 43, 96. 107 

Helenopolis (Megiddo)x 

Hcliopolis 25, 31 

Herod Antipas 74 

Hcshban (Hcsban) 17,37-38 

Hillenbrand. Carole 

Hints 27. 30 

Hippodamus of Miletus 7 

Hire 32 

Hisham (Umayyad caliph) 27, 28. 69. 108 

Hisn Maslama 30 

Hospitallers 35. 39 

llumayd ibn a!-Ma"yuf 79 

Ikirieilah (Yemen) 7 

llusam al-Din Lu'lu 49 

Ibn al-Athir 36 

Ibn Banuta 49, 76. 108 

Ibn Iyas49 


Ibn Sa'ad 48 

Ibn Tulun. Ahmad 79, 89 

Ibn ol-Zubayr 25, 79 

al-ldrissi 39. 68, 76 


iktaof Turabay 41 

inscriptions 17 

Ishaq ibn Qasbisa 69, 108 

lotabe \ 

Msbaita (Shivta) x. 27. 28. 46. 61. 62-64. 104. 1 13 

Isdud Bee Ashdod 

Israel Antiquities Authority 67, 83, 96. 98 

Jabal Says 30 
Jabalya 42 
.Iab.ya29. 105 


77ie Towns of Palestine Under Muslim Rub 

Jaffa (Joppa) ix. 35, 79-82, 85. 89, 103. 107. 1 1 3 

u| al-Din Aqush al-Shamsi 92 
Jamni.i (Ytvae, Yihna) i\ 
Janbirdi al-Ghazali (Governor of Damascus) 4 1 

Jarruhids 103 

J a/ Fara'un 52 

.■I Jaziri 49 

Jett'crson. Mark 14 

Jemdel Nasi 9 
Jenin x 
Jeraafa 20 
Jericho fat, 19 

Jerusalem i Ael.a) ix. 8, 15, 19, 20, 26. 27, 32-33, 35, 37- 

$9,41, 42, 44. Sd. 95. Oft. 104. 107-1 10, 113 
Jesus 7 1 

Jisr Banal Ya'qub 
Jones, A.H.M. viii-xi 
Ioppfl (Jaffa) ix, 35 
Justininan (Byzantine Emperor) 19 

Kaplan. Jacob 96-98 

Ik 35, 37 
Kennedy. Hugh 27 

Khalassa tee Elusa 
Khaini ibo Walid (general i 68 
Khan al-Ahmar (Baysan) 43, 70 
Khan al-Tujjar 67 
KhayrBayal-'Ala'i 49 

Khirbat Fulais 46 


Khirbat al-Mafjar 16, 26. 30. 56, 60 

Klurbat al-Minya 26, 30 

Khumarawayh ibn Ahmad ibn Tulun 49 

Koran J, SO 

Kufa 29. 31,32. 105, 109 

Kumub (Mampsis) xi. 45-46, 58-59. 61 

Ladurie, Lc Roy 1 1 
Lapidus. Ira 1. 5,9 
I aim Kingdom of Jerusalem 8. 32-33. 35-36. 41,09 

I ejiun 41 

Le Got!'. Jaeques 1 1 

Le Toumcau, Roger 4 

Livias x 

Lod see Lydda 

London 8, 14 

LOsch. August 1 3 

Louis (French king) 87 

Lydda ix. 25. 31. 3S. 42. 95. 109-1 10 

Madaba map 54. 56. 58. 6 4 

Madinat al-Far 30 

al-Mahdi (Abbasid caliph) 84 


Mahesh ware 52 

Maiuma of Asealon ix 

Mamma of Ga.- 

Majdal x. 38, 41-42, 82. 86. 90. 105. 1 13 

Mamk.ks 37-39.41-43.47. 51-5 70. 72-74, 107 

Mampsis (Kurnub) xi 45-46, 58-59, 61,113 

Mampsora x 

al-Mansur (Abbasid caliph) 30, 79 

al-Mansur (Almohad saltan 

Vlarcais, William 4-5 

Marcais. George 4-5 

Marissa 7 

Marj ibn "Amir 65 

Marwan II (Lmayyad caliph) 25 

Marx. Karl 3 

al-Mas"udi 48 

Maxinv.anopolis \ 

Mayer, L.A. 94 

Mecca 5, 49 

Medina 5. 63, 107 

Meloy, John 50 

Menois x 

Mcrvl5, 17.28.37, 104. 110 

mihrab 63 

Milan 8 

minarets 107 

Minat al-Qal'a x. 80, 86. 90-9 1.113 

Minai Rubin 80, 91 

Mirandc 8 

m«r29. 78 

al-Mizza 67 

monasteries 9 

Mongols 37. 38, 1 1 1 

monks 19 

mosques 106-107 

Mount Sinai 45-47, 49. 60. 62 

Mount Tabor 66. 68 

Mshatta 53 

Mu'awiya 84, 86 

al-Munzzam 'Isa (Ayyubid prince) 33, 72, 109-1 10 

Muhammad 48 

Mujir al-Din 39. 96, 98, 101-102 

mulberry trees 76 

Muqaddasi 3. 39. 49. 50, 76. 82, 85. 87, 89-91. 93. 9 

99-100, 106-107 
Murad (Ottoman Sultan) 52 
al-Musabbihi 49 
al-Mustansir (Fatmid caliph) 79 
al-Mu"tasim (Abbasid caliph) 30 

Nabatcans 21. 50, 53, 57-58, 61 

.nlus (Neapohs) ix - > 5 - 27 - 38-39, 41. 42. 92. 104. 

Nasir i-Khusraw 39, 71. 76, 87, 95. 97. 99. 106 
al-Nasir Muhammad (Mamluk sultun) 37 
Nazareth x. 36, 38. 42. 65, 66, 67. 68, 71-72, 75. 10S 
Negcv (desert) 45-66 
Nessana ('Auja Haftlr. Niz/ana) \i. 21 . 46, 59-60. 6, 

New Delhi 28 
Nicephorium 28 
Nicolas de Beroarcl 9 1 


Andrew !\i,f.,n 

Vkm. John 25 

Nicopohs (Emmaus) ix, 29, 31 

Nigeria 6 

:pur (Iran) 1 1 
Nizzana sec Ncssana 
Norwich 8 
Num.isrids 103 

Oboda (Augusiopulis. Avdat) x, 45-46, 53-56 
Oljeitu (Mongol ruler) 37 
Olynthus 7 


Ordax. 103 

Ottomans 4 1 -44, 46, 52-53, 54. 59. 6 1 

palaces 108 

Palermo 8 

Palestine Antiquities Authority vii 

Palamna 65 

Palmyra 27 

Parembolc x 


Pembroke 7 

Pembrokeshire 7 

Pentacomia \ 

Persian wars 23-4 

f'eira 57 
Phaenoa \ 
Photis 64 

plague 67. 73 
Portuguese 49 
population estimates 8-9 
Ptolemies. ' >8 

qadi 42. 7) 

n Bee Cairo 
mun38, 103 
Oalqashandi 38, 91-92 
Qansuh al-Ghaun i Mamluk sultan) 49, 52 
Qaqunx, 38,43. 81-82, 91-92, 104. 108. 113 
Qaramatis 26. 32. 79 

Qasral-Hayral-Sharqj 29-30 

-^•ghir 37 
Qayrawan 29 

QaysibnSa'd (governor of Egypt) 48 
Qaytbnv (Mamluk sultan) 85 
al-Qubaiba 8. 38 
Quran see Koran 
Qusa>i Anna 53 
Quscir al-Qadim 104 

Rafiqa2S. 110 


Ramla x. 26. 27. 29. 30-32. 36. 38-39. 42-43. 85, 89. 95- 
102. 104-105. 107-10S. I 1 0-1 I I. 1 13 

Raqqa28, 103, 104 

al-'Ayn ( Anitpatris, Tell Aphek) ix. 27 
Raymond Count ofTripoli 37, 76 

Rehovot ha Negev xi. 46. 48, 60-62 
Rcyiiauld dc Chatillion 49 
Richard (King of England i 
Richard of Cornwall 84 
Ruhaiba xi. 46, 48, 60-62, 113 
Rusafa 27 

Sabas 19-20 

Safad see Safed 

S.UcdlSafadlx, 15. 35-36,38,41.42, 

74, 104, 105, 108. 113 
Safuriyya seeSeppboi 
Said, Edward 5 

St. Catherines Monastery sec Mount Sinai 
St. Davids 7 

Saladin41.72, 76. 84.87.95,97 
Salah al-Din see Saladin 
Salisbury 28 
Saltus Constaniinius x 
Sail us ( 'ieralicusx 
Saltus llieraticus x 
Samaria (Sebaste. Scbastiyya) ix 
Samarra 15.26. 30, 31. 105 

Sariphea ix 

S.iruin 28 

Sasanians 82. 86 

Sauvaget. Jean 4 

Sayf al-Din Salar (Mamluk emir) 90 

Sbaila sec "Isbaita 

Schick. Robert 24 

Scuhopolis (Baysan. Beth She'an) see Baysan 

Sebaste (Samaria, Sebastiyya) ix 

Scljuks 49 

Sclcucids 68 

Sepphoiis (l)iocaesarea. Salwriw.i) x. 20. 27. 28. 65, 74- 

76. 103. 111. 113 
Scrgius (Byzantien governor) 86 
Shahid. Irfan 20-21. 26 
Shalom. Isa 95 
Shivta see 'Isbaita 
shrines 107-108 
Shurahhil ibn llasana 68. 76 
Sidon 82 
Sinan Pasha 82 

Sozusa (Appolonia. Arsuf) ix, 28 
Spain 6 

Sri kshctra (Burma) 7 
Suez canal 59 
Sntlsm 61 

sugar industry 66-67, 88 
Sulayman ibn "Abd al-Malik (Umayyad caliph) 3 1-32, 

Sulayman the Magnificent (Ottoman sultan) 108 
Siilumiyyn 37 

Suq al-Khan sec Khan al-Tujjar 
Svcapiozon ix ... ... 

The Towns of Palestine I nth Muslim Ru 

al-Tabari 25, 48, 105 


Tantura sec Dor 

rckiyye (Damascus) 43 

Tel Aviv University 83 
Tell Aphek (Antipalris. Rasal-'Ayn) ix. 27 
1 cmplars 35. 72 
Tetraconia x 

Tiberias (Tabarij - " . 28. 3 1 . 36, 38. 42, 65, 66, 

76-78. 105. 106-107, 109-110. 113 
i planning 7 
Trajan 4X 

rricomia x 

Tripoli (Lebanon) 37, 81 

Tuiunids 26 

Turahay </*/«) 41 
Turcomans 26 
1 j re 79, 89 

"Ubaydallah (Fatimid mahdi) 32 

■i mar (caliph) 25 

Umayyads 25-27. 45-46 

Ummal-.limal22.24, 104 

United Nations 8, 9 


Usama ibn Zayd 93 

Wadi Mujib 37 

Wales 8 

Walul I 1 1 maj vad caliph) 26 n.3, 30, 95 

al-Waqidi is 

Wasit31. 109 

Wayla (Aeht, Aqaba, Ayla) see Aqabu 

Welsh (owns 8 

Weber, Max 1,3-5 

Whitcomb, D so. 52 


Willibald (Christian pilgrim) 71 

al-Ya-qubi 48. 93. 95 

Yaqut 36. 68 

Yavne, see Yibna 

Yavrte Yam see Minat Rubin 

V 'a/id II (Umayyad caliph) 25 

Yazidibn Pa'idfcodiQ 

Yemen 7 

Yibna ix, 39. 42-43, 79-81, 93-94 

Yorruba 6 

Yuhanna ibn Ru'ba (Bishop of Ayla/Aqaba) 48 

al-Zahiri. Khalil 72 
/i|il", George 13 
/ippori see Scpphoris 

Via Maris 81. 86 
Viking 2 





utid< Muslim I le 
AD 600-1600 

Andrew I 


The Towns of Palestine 

under Muslim Rule 

AD 600-1600 

Andrew Petersen 

BAR International Series 1381